Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Beautiful. Sorry. Grotesque.

Today's weather was foul and we were caught out without coats or umbrellas. It has done nothing but tip it down all day. Great sheets of the stuff throwing itself from the sky. The tubes smelt of wet dogs, faulty electrics and muddy festivals, and at Kentish Town Station, some poor bloke was having to scrape surface water off the tiles in the ticket hall with a giant piece of specialist equipment. It was one of those days when the infrastructure of London entirely breaks down.

This evening we went to see the Carole King musical, Beautiful, at the Aldwych Theatre, and sat in our soggy clothes as the train wreck unfolded.

Now look, before I lay into the show, I should point out that the audience had a lovely time. The show was given a partial standing ovation and the lass playing King started owning the stage when material from the epic album Tapestry gave her something to get her teeth into (and the costumes allowed her to move around the stage with a little more gay abandon.)

But golly, what a pile of sh*t that show is. I am so profoundly bored of juke box musicals, particularly biographical ones which are based on stories which don't deserve to be told. The first act was a revolving carousel of random actors playing random 1960s pop acts gurning, preening, wallowing and massacring their way through a series of songs with no dramatic thrust or interesting musical content.

In between these outpourings were the badly-written, badly-acted, really badly-costumed book scenes which attempted to dramatise what was essentially a non/story, or as I like to call it, a nory. It seems that the multi-millionaire Carole King had a sad life because her childhood sweetheart (whom she went on to marry) had an affair and a little nervous breakdown as a result of taking pot. Boo hoo. Very sad. My heart bleeds. Now how can we crowbar in a rendition of The Locomotion?

Some of the singing, particularly from the male cast, was excruciating. In fact, I got the strong impression that the cast were merely phoning in their performances. There was a black hole of energy on that stage tonight.

Speaking of phones, how rubbish must a director be to allow an actor to dial a number on an old-fashioned rotary phone before picking the receiver up? It's a small, largely insignificant thing, but in my view, it demonstrates a general sense of shoddiness which arose like an silent-but-deadly fart from the stage tonight.

Perhaps our experience was not aided by the weather, or the fact that the usher who tore our tickets (and let us sit down in the wrong level of the theatre) was too busy telling another usher about his latest auditions to actually do his job properly. Being an usher may not be what he wants to do for the rest of his life, but it's still a job, which for the fifteen minutes when the audience is coming in, is worth doing with pride.

If that show took more than a week to workshop and if any of the creatives worked on the show for more than the cost of a travel card I shall feel deeply offended.

That said, the audience loved hearing all those old, familiar songs, and very much enjoyed making appreciative noises as the band struck up for each number. Of course this makes me wonder what we were actually applauding when the singing ended. The song itself, or its lack-lustre performance? We were certainly not applauding the ways the songs slotted into the over-all narrative of the show. Nor were we applauding the grotesque midi strings which strangled all the shoddy band arrangements.

But what do I know? I'm just a writer who cares about his craft and the future of British musical theatre. Maybe one day they'll carve up all my shows and create a new hit show which some hack will write on the back of a cornflakes packet for mega bucks and we can all become wealthy empty vacuums and tell the rest of the world how sad it was in the days when we used to value our art form.

Stars out of five? One. For the piano miming.

No comments:

Post a Comment