Tag Archives: Wilton’s Music Hall

The Shape of the Pain
★★★★★

Wilton’s Music Hall

The Shape of the Pain

The Shape of the Pain

Wilton’s Music Hall

Reviewed – 19th March 2019

★★★★★

 

“It is a piece about love and pain. And understanding. And it is extraordinary.”

 

The Shape of the Pain was developed by Rachel Bagshaw and Chris Thorpe as a theatrical exploration of Rachel’s experience of living with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome – a neuropathic condition that causes constant chronic pain. As the performer articulates in the opening moments of the piece: ‘[It] is an experiment. In how we talk about pain. If we can ever talk about it in a way someone else can understand.’ The piece is also about love; specifically about this woman’s experience of falling in love, and of being in love. It is a piece about love and pain. And understanding. And it is extraordinary.

The elements of the show are simple: one performer, a curve of dark grey metals joined edge to edge onto which text, light and occasional monochrome images are projected, and a soundscape. The piece runs at seventy minutes, and it is a testament to the performer Hannah McPake’s exceptional skill that time passes in a moment, and we are released back into the world after what seems like an extended breath – in some way subtly changed, as if we had been taken apart and reassembled.

Chris Thorpe’s writing is magnificent, swooping as it does between lyricism, abstraction, disintegration and the concrete. It is just devastatingly good. The poetry is everywhere. In angry lists. In everyday observations. And in metaphorical flights of fancy. It is also a hymn to the word ‘fuck’, in all its splendid incarnations.

The writing and the performance operate within an intricate web of light and sound. Melanie Wilson’s textured soundscape is stunning, and Joshua Pharo’s spare video and lighting design is another essential part of this intense and darkly dazzling piece of theatre.

Works of art which endure seem always to have the ability simultaneously to address specific experience and yet encompass the universal. The Shape of the Pain belongs with these. It leaves you with a greater understanding of this rare and complex condition, but also with fresh insight into what it is to be human. It is a rare privilege to see work of this calibre. Go.

 

Reviewed by Rebecca Crankshaw

Photography courtesy China Plate

 


The Shape of the Pain

Wilton’s Music Hall until 23rd March

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Songs For Nobodies | ★★★★ | March 2018
A Midsummer Night’s Dream | ★★★½ | June 2018
Sancho – An act of Remembrance | ★★★★★ | June 2018
Twelfth Night | ★★★ | September 2018
Dietrich – Natural Duty | ★★★★ | November 2018
The Box of Delights | ★★★★ | December 2018
Dad’s Army Radio Hour | ★★★★ | January 2019
The Good, The Bad And The Fifty | ★★★★ | February 2019
The Pirates Of Penzance | ★★★★ | February 2019

 

Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com

 

The Pirates of Penzance

The Pirates of Penzance
★★★★

Wilton’s Music Hall

The Pirates of Penzance

The Pirates of Penzance

Wilton’s Music Hall

Reviewed – 26th February 2019

★★★★

 

“The cast were in fine voice throughout what must be something of an operatic endurance test”

 

The Pirates of Penzance, along with The Mikado, is probably the most well known and loved of the Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. ‘I am the very model of a modern Major General’ and ‘A policeman’s lot is not a happy one’ have long since become part of the English cultural kit-bag, and Wilton’s is the perfect setting for Sasha Regan’s revival, imbued as it is with nostalgia, and the ghosts of early revue, vaudeville and musical theatre. The plot is utterly nonsensical, involving a crew of sentimental pirates (they have a soft spot for orphans), an indentured crew member there under false pretenses (his nursemaid thought she was apprenticing him to a pilot), a Major General and his bevy of daughters, and a well-meaning but terrified posse of policemen. Amidst this chaos, our hero Frederic (the pirate-by-proxy) falls in love with Mabel, one of the Major-General’s daughters, and, predictably, after various travails, finally marries her. Suffice it to say, that no-one goes to a Gilbert and Sullivan for the plot!

Gilbert and Sullivan’s enduring appeal lies in the marvellous marriage of music and lyrics that this extraordinarily brilliant duo brought to the stage, and Sasha Regan’s talented cast – with superb musical direction from Richard Baker – performed with skill and evident relish throughout. The opening number smacked a little too much of all-boy burlesque, but ‘I am a pirate king’, two songs later, brilliantly delivered by James Thackeray, steadied the ship and it was pretty smooth sailing henceforth. For the most part, the production successfully trod the delicate line between affectionate high camp and embarrassing caricature, though there were moments, in the first half particularly, which needed to be reined in. Each of the play’s female leads (Alan Richardson as Ruth; Tom Bales as Mabel) was at their most compelling when at their least performative, and Tom Bales beautifully captured the yearning and romance in Mabel’s duet with Frederic, ‘Stay, Frederic stay’. David McKechnie was a splendid Major-General – full of pomp and pathos; and Sam Kipling gave a lovely comic cameo in the role of Edith.

The cast were in fine voice throughout what must be something of an operatic endurance test, particularly for the female leads; Alan Richardson as Ruth stood out in particular in terms of vocal strength and clarity. Lizzie Gee’s choreography was full of fun, and the ensemble work was terrific. Particularly memorable were the young ladies’ fluttering entrance through the gallery, the antics of the moustachioed policemen, and the fast and furious ‘A paradox’. The show cracked along and seldom lost pace, and although some of the lyrics were lost in the bigger ensemble numbers (‘Stay, we must not lose our senses’), the judicious combination of well-articulated singing and Wilton’s acoustics ensured that W.S.Gilbert’s sparkling wordplay delighted as it should.

The Pirates of Penzance was Gilbert and Sullivan’s fifth collaboration, which premiered in New York in 1879. One hundred and forty years later, its loony plot, catchy tunes and witty lyrics still have the power to entertain a packed house, and reduce an audience to tears of laughter. A great deal has happened in that time however. Ironically, Sasha Regan’s all-male production actually takes the sting out of some of the book’s more toe-curling moments with regard to women – I’m thinking particularly here of Frederic’s early treatment of Ruth – but it does seem dated in all the wrong ways to see an all-white cast in 2019, and it is to be hoped that this issue will be addressed when taking the show forward. Let’s get some more pirates on board!

 

Reviewed by Rebecca Crankshaw

Photography by Scott Rylander

 

Wilton's Music Hall thespyinthestalls

The Pirates of Penzance

Wilton’s Music Hall until 16th March

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Songs For Nobodies | ★★★★ | March 2018
A Midsummer Night’s Dream | ★★★½ | June 2018
Sancho – An act of Remembrance | ★★★★★ | June 2018
Twelfth Night | ★★★ | September 2018
Dietrich – Natural Duty | ★★★★ | November 2018
The Box of Delights | ★★★★ | December 2018
Dad’s Army Radio Hour | ★★★★ | January 2019
The Good, The Bad And The Fifty | ★★★★ | February 2019

 

Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com