Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Side Show

It never ceases to amaze me how fragile London's transport infrastructure is. One little road closure somewhere in the capital has knock-on effects in ever-increasing circles elsewhere. At the moment, for example, the Holloway Road is closed by Upper Holloway Station. Because there's a network of ludicrous one way streets in that part of town, the official diversion takes drivers two miles out of their way, via hundreds of sleeping policemen, through Tufnell Park and back up to the Holloway Road. Frustrated motorist are doing anything they can to avoid the knock-on chaos which stretches all the way up the Archway Road beyond Highgate. As a result, all the back streets around our house are chockablock, to the extent that it took me half an hour to drive back from the gym yesterday, a journey which ought to have taken less than ten minutes. Today I got entirely trapped by scores of cars driving down a narrow road which I wanted to drive up. The looks of entitlement on their little angry faces were a picture. One guy shook his fist at me because he didn't think I was reversing back down the road (to let him pass) speedily enough. Obviously I immediately slowed down and shook my middle finger back at him, smiling sweetly. There's nothing like a berserk driver wanting to show you how busy and important he is to make me realise how little in a rush I am. From my bedroom, all I could hear were the sounds of car horns beeping angrily into the sonic distance...

This evening we went to see Side Show at the Southwark Playhouse. I find myself increasingly impressed by that particular theatre. It feels rather New York Villagey. It's got a brilliant bar and cafe and it always stages such interesting musicals. It's basically the home of new British musical theatre. It's got a brilliant 60s-esque sign over the door: the words Southwark Playhouse spelt out in giant metal letters filled with lightbulbs.

We arrived in the aftermath of some kind of occurrence. The front door was essentially smashed up on the pavement outside the theatre, and a group of bemused theatre queens were staring at the mess. Inside, a man was looking rather shell-shocked. He'd apparently bumped into the door with his glass of wine and the whole thing had shattered everywhere. The oddest thing was that the wine glass had survived the impact. He'd obviously caught the glass in the door at it's weak point and the whole thing had exploded. All very exciting...

The show itself was well worth the ticket money. The two leads, Laura Pitt-Pulford and Louise Dearman play conjoined twins who escape a freak show to become... well, ├╝ber freaks! It felt as though it might have been a true story, because the piece suffers a little from what happens in all bio-pics, namely that there's never a particularly tidy through-line, or a convincing end or moral to the piece. It was also a tad chintzy. If I'd set that particular story to music, it would have been a darker, edgier affair, but it's an American show, and the Yanks don't do that shit, so you take mawkish sentimentality, cruddy lyrics and sanitised grime with a pinch of salt.

All that said, I thoroughly enjoyed the evening. The performances were exquisite. Dearman and Pitt-Pulford have two of the finest voices in the West End at the moment, and acting chops to match. The set was stunning. The costumes were lovely. And the band played beautifully. The show was directed by the wonderful Hannah Chissick, who directed Brass this time round, and I'm proud to say she did a marvellous job. The piece was staged in the "three-quarters round", which means the audience sits on three sides of the acting space. It's a really difficult space to work with, because, as a director, particularly if you have a large cast, you have two choices: either to keep everyone constantly moving, or to play an intricate series of angles in the space, which mean no one in the audience is having their view of the main actors blocked, and everyone gets to see someone's face at all times. Hannah managed all of this with great aplomb. Tick. Tick. Tick. Bravo all.

It was also lovely to see young Jordan from the NYMT, who was the assistant director on the show. I don't know how that piece of knowledge passed me by, but it's always an immense pleasure to see him. He brings out the very worst in me. And I in him...

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