Music: Janet Hood
Lyrics: Bill Russell
Director: Marc Kelly
Reviewer: Joanna Trainor
Angels, Punks and Raging Queens are partying before the audience even arrive at the White Bear in Kennington. Disco balls, fairy lights, illuminated beer signs, stage show posters, beanbags, and a well-placed table to dramatically dance on, set the scene for a celebration of these characters’ lives, but also manage to be a poignant reminder of what has been lost.
This show knits together monologues from beyond the grave, and songs from the people who have been left behind. It has the potential to be both heart-wrenching and fabulous, but Marc Kelly and Elizabeth Chadwick’s production lacks a certain something to get it there. The space at the White Bear is intimate, so staging it around the audience brings them ever closer to these tales. However the direction means that the cast spend a lot of the time walking from corner to corner, dramatically holding another character’s hand or giving them a pitying hug. This quickly becomes stale and far too clichéd for a piece with such an important message. Their wistful gazes while others are singing seem forced and slightly patronising at times.
That is not to say that the company aren’t gifted with some remarkable voices. Collectively the noise they make is impressive, reducing several spectators to tears with the finale. Although the balance between who performs the solos is slightly skewed; those who possess a certain magic quality in their singing like James Chisholm and Ben Rawlings aren’t given nearly enough air time. These two actors are also exceptional dancers. It is a shame that the tap numbers are not accompanied by tap shoes, so that they are really able to show off their talent.
The 12 performers play a variety of rôles; this is a particularly nice feature of the show as one body channelling many voices links nicely with the musical’s theme of one quilt with a patch for all those who had “lived with AIDS”, and were recounting their story. Though some of the accents for these individuals need to be clarified.
It is clear that the cast of Elegies are all talented, but that the direction given does not use the actors to their strengths and sells them short. With a different use of the space and a focus on each person’s particular assets this could have been an outstanding show, but instead it just leaves you feeling a little disappointed.
Runs until 2nd March 2014