Theatre FootNotes for February 2020 – a summary of other theatre events in my diary


(Seen at Battersea’s Turbine Theatre on Saturday 8 February, duration 60 minutes)

As part of the Turbine’s Music Theatre Festival, I saw the last of three public performances of a much-anticipated work-in-progress, the Stiles and Drewe musical treatment of one of my favourite films, SOAPDISH.

The story of the attempts made to bring down a popular but demanding daytime TV star by her rivals was a hugely funny- and popular- film from 1991 which starred Sally Field and Kevin Kline, Whoopi Goldberg, Robert Downey, Jr and others.

From the work put in by Stiles and Drewe, book writer Robert Harling (writer of the original movie), director Rachel Kavanaugh, MD supreme Alex Parker and the starry cast, it all looks very promising.

Following the storyline of the film tightly, the songs are natural extensions of the plot framework, which gives them credibility and solidity.

The starry cast did a great job of putting over the material. The busy, uptempo “Get Ready” – set at the Daytime TV awards – is a perfect opener. It was great to hear Louise Dearman as Celeste the star, tunefully lamenting about wanting to “Wash My Hands of Soap”. Good also to see Laura Pitt-Pulford playing hard as nails Montana, Celeste’s mortal enemy, hilarious in her breathy seduction of the show’s producer David (nicely twitchy Richard Dempsey), in her gleefully tacky song “Tit for Tat”. Ben Richards, cast as Jeffrey (Celeste’s previous on-screen love interest but in reality bitter enemies, brought back to the show to torment Celeste) doesn’t get too much to do in Act One (which is essentially what we saw a digest of), but he was very welcome anyway.

Clive Rowe pops up delightfully as the philistine TV exec who gives a great number about what he likes – “Peppy and Cheap”.

Stiles and Drewe’s work is always a delight. Here they even musicalise “Death of A Salesman”. And what other team could so ballsily rhyme and coin new words such as “menopausable” ?

Having been to a lot of these readings and presentations over the years, often its the cast themselves who give you the best indication of how good the material is. And here the cast reactions while sitting and following the performers who were “on” were a delight. And if they enjoyed it, I can’t see how anyone else couldn’t.

This already has “big hit” written all over it.

THE ROYALE by Marco Ramirez at Milton Court Theatre (Guildhall School). (Seen on Saturday 8th February, 80 minutes duration)

Describing the aspiration of Jay “The Sport” Jackson to be the first black world heavyweight champion. Looking at the drive, the sacrifice and the real reasons behind his motivations-to give his sister a black role model she could identify with.

Good acting all round, but especially by Shaka Kalokoh as Jay and Anele Mahamba as his sister Nina

The play itself was highly descriptive but eventually too talkative and lacking in action to maintain my interest for the complete running time.

FLIGHTS by John O’ Donovan at Omnibus Theatre, Clapham. (Seen on Sunday 16 February, 2 hrs 30 minutes duration)

In a teenage hideout in rural Ireland, three contemporaries gather for their annual celebration and remembrance of their school friend Liam who died aged 17, now as long dead as he was alive. They sit around and reminisce, remember Liam, discuss their dissatisfaction with their current lives, drink a lot of beer and cider and take drugs, in ways which seem still stuck in adolescence.

With no action to speak of, it’s a very static two and a half hours, with long, rambling conversations interspersed with each actor taking a turn to metamorphose into the late Liam, with each having a fifteen-minute plus monologue about the world from Liam’s viewpoint.

All three actors do sterling work in being absolutely on top of reams of writer John O’ Donovan’s text, full credit to them all. But we are given little reason to care about these characters, and therefore for me their issues did not hit home.

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