Posts Tagged ‘Douggie McMeekin’

When you’ve seen a play tens of times, you invariably focus on the interpretation you are now watching. For the first half of this heavily cut ‘Dream’ I couldn’t get the questions ‘what are you getting at here?’ and ‘where are you going with this?’ out of my head. In fact, they weren’t fully answered by the end.

The Young Vic has acquired a giant mud pit with a mirror wall behind it, in which the whole play takes place. Perhaps it’s a comment on the state of our countryside 400 years on? Running at just two unbroken hours, director Joe Hill-Gibbins has dispensed with most of the fairies (or maybe they walked out in protest at their working environment). The story is intact until the end, where madness seems to have replaced marriages (some would say they are the same thing). Puck has gone part-time, and the only fairy doesn’t really have her heart in it, though she sings beautifully. The spells are lame, and Bottom’s relationship with Hippolyta appears to continue with Titania. 

The two things it got right, in my view, are the chaotic who-loves-who scene (despite the lame spells) and one of the funniest rude mechanicals plays I’ve ever seen, courtesy of some sublime comic acting by Geoff Aymer, Aaron Heffernan, Douggie McMeekin, Sam Cox and a completely unrecognisable Leo Bill as Bottom. 

I’m not a purist; I just didn’t get it. It veered too far from Shakespeare’s original for me and just wasn’t anywhere near magical enough.

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The first of two visits this week to see graduating musical theatre students at two of London’s drama schools, and this first one an opportunity to catch something that seems to have passed me by when it was at the Landor Theatre seven years ago – or did it? These contemporary American chamber musicals are beginning to blur; they’re all set in New York City, with a handful of 20 or 30-something characters, they’re all about relationships and the scores are strikingly similar. At several points, I was thinking maybe I did see it at the Landor – or maybe I’m confusing it with composer / writer Joshua Salzman & Ryan Cunningham’s other show, Next Thing You Know, at the Landor a year ago!

Austin and Marcy’s relationships have ended. Austin’s brother Jeff and Marcy’s friend Diana (who don’t know each other) encourage them to date again and they end up with each other, as do Jeff and Diana. Nice but dim Jeff, with a tendency to malapropism, and actuary (!) Diana start out with a simple uncomplicated affair. Greeting card ‘poet’ (!), deeply traditional Austin plays the longer settling down game, though he’s still not over his ex. A lot of it takes place in the local bar (Friends – the musical!) where the stereotypical NYC man and woman bar tenders (that’s what the characters are called) dispense sympathy and advice with the beer and shots, hiding their feelings for one another. Of course, it all ends happily – this is a fairytale of New York.

The score is very generic, perfectly acceptable but completely unmemorable. The show differentiates itself from others of the genre by it’s humour – not just funnier, but also spikier. This production is better in the acting than it is in the singing, with the cast, accompanied by two keyboards, often failing to rise to its vocal challenges (pitching and tuning issues, as they say in TV talent shows). I particularly liked the comic goofiness of Garmon Rhys as Jeff and the versatility and quirky charm of Douggie McMeekin in multiple roles as NYC man. This was the first performance, so I’m sure it will all become slicker as the week’s run progresses.

I think it’s time I gave this genre a wide berth though, lest I confuse similarity with senior moments.

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