Posts Tagged ‘Lil Warren’

What better way to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first women to get the vote than a show where the entire cast and all the creatives are women. What’s more, it’s about female gang warfare in Victorian London, set twenty years before the Suffragettes!

The Oranges rule the East End from Bethnal Green and the Elephants South of the river from Walworth Road. The former have Jewish heritage and the latter Irish heritage. Not only do they clash over turf, Ada in the Oranges and Nellie in the Elephants (yes!) both fancy naive Mary, newly arrived from the Black Country. It’s a melodrama within a Music Hall show, with the MC acting as narrator and singalong organiser! The icing on the cake is that it’s being staged in Hoxton Hall, a Victorian Music Hall complete with a high proscenium stage, two wrought iron balconies on three sides and a fireplace with mantelpiece and mirror in the stalls.

Chickenshed’s Jo Collins has written some great songs and Lil Warren’s book and lyrics are deliciously rude and bawdy. The look is perfect in Sara Perks design, with excellent lighting by Joanna Town and a quiet, atmospheric soundscape of street-life and transport by Yvonne Gilbert. The only fault I found in Susie McKenna’s staging was that the music hall and narration interjections do sometimes get in the way of the narrative flow, but the idea is too good to take them away. The cast is outstanding, switching effortlessly from chirpy to cruel, all in fine voice, playing instruments to supplement Jo Collins, MD and performer as well as composer, on piano.

I’m puzzled by the lukewarm critical reaction. I thought it was original, inventive and great fun, in the perfect venue.

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