Theatrelovers – all praise The Fringe; the most exciting theatre to be seen recently is in the tiny 50-80 seat theatres dotted all over London. The sheer choice, rawness, edginess, cleverness and courage of many of these productions is admirable and so much more satisfying as a patron than many of the offerings “in town”.
Hello Again by Michael John LaChiusa (one of the busiest composers around whose musicals “See What I Wanna See” just finished in London and his latest musical “First Daughters Suite” has just opened in New York) is currently being staged at the Hope Theatre in Islington, probably one of the smallest theatres around but if judging by this production, one to pay more attention to.
Based on the “shocking” 1897 play “La Ronde” by Arthur Schintlzer, the musical examines the depths and passions of sexuality and sexual attraction in a series of love affairs that span different decades of the 20th Century through ten different characters – the Whore, the Soldier, the Young Thing, etc. What makes this more intriguing is that one character from an affair appears in the next one and so forth. Normally performed by a cast of ten, director Tania Azevedo’s outstanding production reduces it further to a cast of five which makes this experience ever the more intense.
The intimacy of the Hope Theatre forces us as an audience to become voyeurs to each couple, listening in to and watching the raw seduction take place whilst all the time analyzing the layers of psyche for each character and their desperate need for any kind of intimate affection. This is not your typical musical, but somehow the music works seamlessly to enhance every situation, heightening each reality and at the same time delicately controlling it from the tiniest romance to blatant sexual hedonism.
The cast is superb – each delving headfirst into their characters throwing caution to the wind, exposing every passionate nerve and sexual complexity. Due to the double casting, each actor plays two characters, allowing almost every possible combination and even though these characters are separated by situation and time, they are somehow emotionally and psychologically linked. The performers command the stage at every opportunity and they work as an ensemble like a well-oiled machine, each complimenting the others. Adam Colbeck-Dunn’s Writer, Isabella Messarra’s Nurse, Joshua LeClair’s Young Thing, Thea Jo Wolfe’s Whore and Miles Western’s Husband are particular highlights.
Musical direction by Daniel Jarvis is flawless with ensemble singing specifically detailed and commendations to his piano skills too – it’s not an easy play at all!
A fascinating and expertly delivered revival that deserves to be seen by a greater audience. Don’t miss it!!
Reviewed by Richard Kindermann
Photo: Kristian Pirotta Photography