Wednesday, 4 March 2015

On the verge of nervous breakdowns

After a tiring day of writing arrangements, formatting parts and running at the gym, Nathan and I decided to give ourselves a little treat. For two utterly broke individuals, that was probably only ever going to amount to a walk on the Heath or a chip supper from Toffs in Muswell Hill, until we remembered that the lovely Matt Lucas had given us theatre tokens for our 40th birthdays. An hour later, we jumped in the car, drove down to our secret road off the Strand with its free parking spaces, and bought tickets to see the musical version of Women On the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.

I'm ashamed to say that I haven't actually seen the original Almodóvar film, which is quite some admission for a man who loved All About My Mother so enormously. I think I've always been the partner of men who don't particularly like watching films with subtitles (yes, sadly that includes Nathan)!

The show was okay. Some things stood out. Tamsin Grieg is a fabulous actress and Haydn Gwynne absolutely stole the show with the most gloriously subtle, yet simultaneously over the top performance. I know her as a telly actress, so was rather astounded by her totes legit musical theatre chops, but Nathan, of course, knew her previous work in the West End, which included playing the original Miss Oolie in City of Angels.

The set was perhaps the most ghastly looking thing I've ever seen on a West End stage. It looked like a melamine flat pack from MFI, all white and lit with ludicrous primary colours. It offered nothing to the show. Nothing whatsoever. And in many instances it was a distracting eyesore.

The book and lyrics were good. The lyrics were excellent in places. Gwynne sings a divinely moving song about feeling invisible as an older woman which was beautifully structured. Sadly, the music did nothing but groove. It was all baselines and drum beats and not a lot of musical content, particularly in the realm of tunes, which had the effect of making everything seem a bit bland and non-dramatic. There were a few too many songs as well which seemed to rather come out of nowhere.

But overall, I applaud any musical which fills its stage with strong female roles, and after I'd accepted that everything looked a little cheap and sounded a little bland, I was able to sit back and enjoy what was being offered to me. Will it run and run, however? No.

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