Thursday, 27 April 2017

The Life

I'm currently working on the song Delusion from Em. It's always quite an intense experience when I put pen to paper on this particular song. The lyrics are incredibly personal to me, largely because I think the one thing that writers and artists are probably all united in is their fear of being thought of as deluded. In the song, the delusion refers to matters of the heart coupled with the idea that people from certain backgrounds don't ever really get to have ideas above their station. The great tragedy in my industry is that it's not a meritocracy, largely because everyone has a different concept of what good art actually is. As a result, it's so often only the most tenacious, the most confident, the prettiest, the wealthiest or the luckiest who get to have their voices heard by the mainstream. The rest of us are like beggars, competing viscously for the scraps of funding which get thrown our way. That's how it sometimes feels, in any case.

The weather today has been hysterical. I got royally attacked by hailstones as I ran, like a little girl under a water sprinkler, down Southwood Lane.

I travelled down to Southwark this evening to watch The Life at Southwark Playhouse. The evening was marred a little by seeing a bloke tearing into a woman on the street afterwards in a scene which was hugely reminiscent of the show, which is about New York hookers and their highly-violent pimps. Of course, the instinct is to go over to the woman and ask if she's okay. She seemed more passive than frightened, and I couldn't tell if this was perhaps even more worrying. We crossed the street to try to give her a sense of solidarity, but, obviously, the most dangerous person to be when a volatile man is on the rampage is actually another man. Sure enough, as we walked passed him, he caught my eye, and aggressively started shouting "what are you staring at?" before starting to kick something which made a terrible racket and scared the shite out of me. It's all very well having the instinct to be a Good Samaritan but it can actually make a situation a whole heap worse.

The Life was, however, remarkable. I think there are a few issues with the piece itself, which is one of the last shows Cy Coleman wrote. It's a very daring script. Very dark, edgy, and quite bleak in places. It actually feels very fresh. I was somewhat shocked to realise it was written when the composer was well into his 60s. My only major issue with the piece is that it has a somewhat mawkish American-style "you'll always be my friend" type number at the end which seems at absolute loggerheads to the darkness of the rest of the show. This sort of thing always seems to happen on Broadway. It's almost as though there's a feeling that a writer needs to apologise for daring to be dark. But this in itself has a jarring "but then we all woke up" quality, which I always find disappointing.

I don't want to focus on the one tiny negative, however, because it's an amazing show, and this was an amazing production with brilliant choreography and an exquisite band. The music rattles along in a world which inhabits smokey jazz, boogaloo and elements of funk. There were moments when I heard myself audibly congratulating the sax players, and saying things like "nice" at some of the guitarist's riffs. I don't know who arranged the music for that particular ensemble, but it was deftly done. I also don't know who the MD was, but she did a very very fine job. I only know it was a woman because I was watching her appreciatively in the monitors.

The cast were outstanding. I was very pleased to learn that the casting director was my old mate, Anne Vosser, whom I met the interval. We worked together for the best part of a year and a half on Taboo, and became thick as thieves during the process. I haven't seen her in the flesh for at least ten years and it took me a split second to recognise her. I'd love to work with her again. Some of the laughs we had in those auditions were close to legendary.

The stand out performer tonight (in a very very strong cast) was almost certainly Sharon D Clarke. Fans of our wedding will remember that she sang Love Conquers All just after we'd tied the knot. She is a remarkable performer. I very nearly gave her a standing ovation after her big number in Act One. Her voice is remarkable. She truly knows her craft. There isn't an inch of her vocal folds which she doesn't know to control. She makes brave and bold choices. She really is one of the best.

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