Book, music &lyrics: Chris Burgess
Director: Robert McWhir
Reviewer: Jonathan Baz
Sleeping Arrangements is a translation of Sophie Kinsella’s novel of the same name into a new piece of musical theatre staged at the veritable dynamo of that genre, Clapham’s Landor Theatre. It’s a simple enough, if anodyne, tale of two frustrated married couples thrown together in an Andalucian doubled-booked holiday villa. Add in the 16 year old son of one union and a gorgeous nanny from t’other to generate some adolescent carry on capers, as well as some adult bed hopping, and you have the ingredients for a passable piece of chick-lit cavorting.
Chris Burgess writes in the programme that when he first read the novel, he “couldn’t help but hear songs all over the place”. Unfortunately, it seems that sometimes these may have been other people’s songs. The wide-ranging score draws on many influences yet never really establishes its own identity or achieves sufficient depth in its lyrics or book.
Nonetheless, this show entertains. Sam, the testosterone-fuelled 16 year old, is wonderfully played by Adam Pettigrew and Liza Pulman’s Amanda splendidly belts out her song Superwomanlegs akimbo.And as frustrated wife Chloe, Jenny Gayner masterfully extracts the melodrama from her lyrics and she steamily convinces as a still seductive but frustrated wife who found herself becoming a mother far too young in life.
When illicit passions inevitably spill over into a stolen afternoon of lust with Steven Serlin’s Hugh, Serlin’s muscular naked torso (as well as his magnificent voice) will have much of the audience swooning in the Landor’s cramped aisles. AndSabrina Aloueche also smoulders as Jenna, the at times bikini-clad provocative young nanny, who is lusted after by sons while flirting wickedly with fathers. When she sings her voice has an electrifying unity of youth, power and pitch-perfect tone.
The show is directed by Robert McWhir, a seasoned and talented practitioner, who takes Burgess’s composition and skilfully fashions it into a watchably endearing production. David Shield’s Spanish set is a delight and while Colin Billing’s band are four worthy musicians, Burgess’ melodies don’t give them a lot with which to make our spines tingle.
Sleeping Arrangements is simply crying out for coachloads of West End Wendies to pack the Landor during its four week residency. The ticket price is infinitely better value than most jukebox musicals to be found up West, the performances on display are at least as good (if not better), and the story is far more up to date than Cliff Richard’s Summer Holiday. Don’t forget your passport!