We have a running joke in our household; that within five minutes of returning to my family home I have made myself a “Fridge Sandwich” and devoured it a-la-sofa, washed down with my backlog of ‘Keeping Up With The Kardashians’ on the planner. The Kardashians are a full-frontal, no holds barred, love-to-hate family, and whilst my passions for the K’s are tinged with irony, there’s no denying their global fascination. I was equally fascinated by the opportunity to see the latest musical stylings of Northern composer and writer duo Leoe & Hyde at The Arcola Theatre in Dalston; presenting their Kardashian/Mozart Opera Musical Mash-Up (try saying that twice after your interval drinks..) following a UK tour across Fringe Festivals and picking up a John Beecher Memorial Award from Buxton Fringe along their travels.
Produced and designed by Alexander Newton, this show explores the life of “The Marriage of Kim
K’s” composer Stephen Hyde, and his real life girlfriend, Amelia Gabriel, from their living room. The
motivation for their story arises from their conflicting tastes when it comes to how they choose to
relax, (it’s just like all dramatic conflicts featured in Love Island… minus the villa, and sunshine, and the oily men…). He loves the classical stylings of Mozart, whilst she loves the kontemporary Kardashians – their kitchen sink story is played out by Kris and Kim on stage right and the Count and Countess from The Marriage of Figaro on stage left.
The Arcola Theatre provides a cool, edgy Fringe venue, with a thrust stage allowing the audience
to surround the action at various tiers. The production values on the whole are good, with a bright,
colourful set and clever use of lighting to mark particular moments in the story. Staging was simple
and the actors did well to communicate to each side of the audience, but a few larger props did
impact the audience’s sight-lines on the far sides.
However, a real strength of this show is the music by Stephen Hyde under the musical direction of
Sam Davies (with lyrics by Leo Mercer). The musical styles are hot and heavy, Mozart’s gorgeous
arias contrasting with contemporary patter and twang-tactic vocals – quite literally offering
something for everyone. The Echo Chamber are a well oiled machine, and cleverly blend the
electric and classical to create a truly unique sound. The technical abilities of The Count and
Countess played by classical performers Emily Burnett and Nathan Bellis are also to be
applauded, a perfectly humoured duo, they really shone within the show. James Edge, charismatic
and chiselled, presented a truly dislikable Kris, and Yasemin Mireille was a konfident Kim with a
few moments of very well-timed ‘Kim-isms’.
The show presents twenty original songs, featuring a mixture of styles and tastes. A particular
stand out was “Unhappy” which featured a clever use of contemporary pop satire. Sadly, on this
occasion the sound levels weren’t in the actors’ favour and much of what I imagine to be incredibly
witty lyrics were lost into the ether. The show is fast-paced and is highly original, but needs a little more shaping to the characters’ development to heighten the shows impact – The Kardashian’s
have made themselves a multimillion dollar brand and aren’t as one-dimensional as they may
appear, and I’d love the show to reflect this with future re-workings. I do applaud the company’s
use of new graduates, they contribute an undeniable energy within the ensemble that helps to
accentuate the cutting-edge potential within this show.
A fun fact to finish (and this OMG this is bible), the creative process and production of this
adaptation of The Marriage of Kim K has lasted longer than the 72 days that Kim was married to
Kris… If that’s not a reason to see this show, I don’t know what is!
There’s still time to catch the rest of their London run at the Arcola until 29th July, alternatively the drama is continuing for a month at Edinburgh Fringe, 2-28th August at C venues (Venue 34).
Review by Lisa MacGregor
Credit: Shay Rowan