Thursday, 5 June 2008

CATCHING UP: The Common Pursuit, GWTW+LotR Revisited

(Classwork, laziness, and more have kept updates from regularity. However, since the RZ is going to a new musical tonight, it means getting old reviews out of the way.)

First off, the first time visit. The RZ had an opportunity to catch The Common Pursuit last week at the Menier Chocolate Factory, and found himself straddled on the critical fence the general spectrum of professional reviewers ended up creating. On the one hand, this is a traditional, well meaning play about what it means to hold to your ideals in the face of financial necessity, but on the other it’s very...well...upper-class, academic, and English. Telling the story of six Cambridge friends who form a literary magazine before going their separate yet linked ways in adulthood, The Common Pursuit hits the ideas of selling out and the decline of heroism, and is packed with excellent actors...but the RZ found himself wondering, despite his enjoyment, why it needed a second hour - short of the third act plot twist (itself outside the major themes) it’s blatant where everything is going by the interval.

Second, the long awaited commentary and space to potentially eat one’s words. The RZ was offered some free tickets to revisit Gone With The Wind a couple weeks ago, and took his source (not working on the production) up on the offer. So how is the show after all the cuts have been made?

Still pretty disappointing, but . The most painful bits are gone, and the runtime is almost comfortable, though a few embarrassing lines remain (see the first preview report re: soldiers and sex.) Madeleine Worrall’s Melanie is still shrill and annoying, and the cast still don’t have anything resembling realistic accents. On the upside, the music is better the second time around, though the RZ remains hard pressed to remember most of it, and the burning of Atlanta finally has a half-decent effect. In the end, though, the second act still dragged and the RZ left with a headache which means he doesn’t feel good enough about the fixed edition to actually recommend anybody except die hard chick-flick fans go and see it.

Last, the RZ went with a group of friends to take in Lord of the Rings one more time before it closes in July. Despite being a few minutes late thanks to’s overly tight dinner+show reservation times, his group found themselves comfortably seated in the rear stalls (not a bad upgrade from upper circle). Visually, LotR is still one of the best things in the West End, a lush parade of mechanics and lights the likes of which won’t be seen again for years. Unfortunately, the show didn’t seem as tight the second time, and the RZ felt detached from the story and characters. Perhaps it was distraction from the late arrival or the general half-empty atmosphere of the theatre, but things just didn’t click on a return visit. That said, fans of visual theatre would be wise to get tickets before Middle Earth vanishes next month.

Where: Menier Chocolate Factory
When: Until 20 July. Tu-Sa @ 20:00, Sa/Su @ 15:30
How Much: £22.50 general admission
Concessions: £18, limited availability
RZ Unofficial “Worth Paying”: £18. The RZ liked it, but didn’t love it.
RZ Other Notes: The staging is rather innovative, involving a sliding set that makes the Menier auditorium feel like the TARDIS. On the other hand, it means seats on the extreme right are obstructed as a wide portion of the stage is draped off.

Where: New London Theatre
When: Until 14 June. M @ 19:00, Tu-Sa @ 19:30, W/Sa @ 14:30
How Much: £27.50-£60
Concessions: None officially, but word is that top price seats can be purchased on the day for £25 at the box office.
RZ Unofficial “Worth Paying”: £10 if you love the book/film/Jill Paice/Darius Danesh’s hairy chest
RZ Other Notes: The producers wised up and pulled the plug on this one. Had the show the RZ saw in June been the first preview, he’d have probably been more sympathetic, as would the critics as the show now is in a state where it can be turned into something adequate vs. being dreadful.

**No changes since the RZ’s full review. He does suggest, however, that those looking to go on the cheap book early in the week and buy in the balcony or upper circle - you are all but guaranteed a bump down to the first circle or stalls.**

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