Friday, 20 June 2008

REVIEW: Forever Plaid/The Woman in Black

This week, after spending days going in and out of his classmates’ festival of new experimental works, he decided to spend his leisure evenings taking in a pair of the city’s older offerings.

While the current production of Forever Plaid at Upstairs at the Gatehouse is new, the show itself is anything but, having become a mainstay of the American community and regional scene. Premiering in the early 90’s and loaded with nostalgic doo-wop crooners, Plaid is the story of a clean cut 50’s boy band who were killed in a traffic accident on their way to their first professional concert when their Mercury convertible was sideswiped by a bus full of parochial schoolgirls on their way to see the Beatles. Given one chance to perform their show before crossing over, the band talk of girls, friendship, and music in between twenty-odd tracks. The plot is even thinner than in most jukebox musicals, but the concert setting makes it work.

It also helps, of course, to have a cast in fine voice (we do), and director John Plews’ addition of choreography (by daughter Racky) to what is in the US a staid, almost motionless performance, does wonders to make the material accessible to a nation who, in Mr. Plews’ words, never got what Plaid was. When discussing the show with him during the interval, plaid bands didn’t dance but coloured groups did. Whether intentional or not, the added subtext of breaking form adds a new dimension to the title band’s failures at success. Regardless of the subtext, Forever Plaid provides a calm, pleasant evening’s entertainment - and sometimes, that’s exactly what you want.

The Woman in Black, meanwhile, has been a West End juggernaut, currently in its nineteenth year. While it lives up to its reputation when it comes to scaring girls on the many (many) school groups who visit, the RZ found it more of a suspenseful evening than an outright frightening one. Perhaps it was his position in the upper circle, or just too much time watching Naoki Urasawa’s Monster. Either way, the play is still in fine form, with Sean Baker playing a wide berth of secondary characters and Ben Porter taking on Baker’s meta-character who must live out the vicious ghost story that unfolds. With the Japanese cast coming in September, the RZ sees a return visit on the horizon to see if better seats and a cross-cultural approach can build a new addition onto this old mansion of a play.

Where: Upstairs at the Gatehouse
When: Until 22 June. Sa @ 20:00, Su @ 16:00
How Much: £12 Sun/£15 Sat
Concessions: £10/£12
RZ Unofficial “Worth Paying”: £12. Fun, enjoyable show.
RZ Other Notes: Props to UatG for £1 programmes (printed onsite to demand) and £1 ice creams making an interval treat affordable should one not wish to run to the pub below.

Where: Fortune Theatre
When: M-Sa @ 20:00, Tu @ 15:00, Sa @ 16:00
How Much: £13.50-£39
Concessions: £25 seniors/£20 students and unemployed available 1 hr prior to curtain.
RZ Unofficial “Worth Paying”: £22.50 - closer is better with this one but it’s not worth the top two prices in the RZ’s opinion. The show is frequently at TKTS, though, so get it there for half.
RZ Other Notes: No, there’s not an uncredited actress. Really.

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