top girls; The Great British Bake-Off Musical; Sleepova; Oklahoma! – Review

top girl has relocated to Liverpool and Caryl Churchill, who was consulted on the production and its new context, recently said that her 1982 classic, based on Thatcher’s Britain, was an examination of society rather than feminism. Director Suba Das’s enthusiastic staging may have the Toxteth riots as its backdrop, but it reminds one that the brilliance of Churchill’s play is that it is never doctrinaire, but rather full of human oddity, struggle and disappointment. Tala Gouveia is a compelling portrayal of Marlene, CEO of Top Girls Recruitment Agency, and yet – despite her padded ’80s dress on the shoulders – she proves in her own way as much a victim as women with flying careers or no careers at all.

In top girlSisterhood hardly exists – not even between sisters. Marlene’s illegitimate daughter Angie (whom Saffron Dey engages) is raised by Marlene’s working-class sister Joyce (Alicya Eyo strongly emphasizes Joyce’s righteous resentment). Aside from Angie’s spaniel-like devotion to ‘auntie’, neither woman likes each other and that’s the real shock (especially in the context of Liverpool). Individual ambition contributes nothing to the common good. And that turns out to be a challenge for the production itself, because the spirit of “every man for himself” currently leads to a lack of cohesion in the cast.

What are these bakers kneading? Rest assured, there are worse – gloriously bad – puns on the show itself

However, the famous opening dinner party scene where famous women clash in a Poncey restaurant (designer Ellie Light) has some great moments. Sky Frances gives an outstanding performance as Dull Gret (a character from Brueghel), who exists in a grumpy world of her own and offers peasant monosyllabic words as her contribution to the Vouvray feast. Nadia Anim as 13th-century concubine Lady Nijo is hard to listen to at times, but amusingly toasts herself and reminisces about her days of fashion glory—all those raw silks. Lauren Lane plays Pope Joan, and if she (the show prides itself on including trans and non-binary artists) try this as a conversation starter, “Do you all have dead lovers?” — it lands in high camp perfection.

Understudy Elizabeth Twells (substituting for Natalie Thomas) does a great job with Victorian traveler Isabella Bird, and the need to read from a script lends an unintended and surreal authority to the scene – you could make out her pink-highlighted lines from the stands. I saw the last preview just before opening night and currently the production needs more time to set – more Vouvray to oil the works.

The great British bake-off musical, with book by Jake Brunger and music by Pippa Cleary, is fresh out of the oven in a West End incarnation (it had a summer run at Cheltenham last year). I was expecting a great British rip-off, flat as a failed sponge. It’s bound to depend on the Channel 4 series (which has around 8million viewers in the UK), but the show manages to have its cake and eat it – an unexpected treat. Directed by Rachel Kavanaugh, it’s brimming with good songs (a poor man’s Cole Porter if you were a snob) yet lovingly satirical.

John Owen-Jones and Haydn Gwynne in The Great British Bake Off Musical: ‘a hoot’. Photo: Tristram Kenton/The Guardian

His most satisfying number, obviously, questions the kindness candidates show each other (all those suspicious hugs). “There’s something beneath the smile that no one will address…” And theater also offers an opportunity to examine what television largely leaves to the guesswork. What are the participants missing when baking? (One hopes to get pregnant, two are sad, a third is homesick in Syria.) What are these bakers doing knead? Rest assured, there are worse – gloriously bad – puns on the show itself.

Prue Leith and Paul Hollywood are renamed here. Haydn Gwynne is a hoot as “Pam,” a lively, rainbow-hued dynamo with the signature tune “Keep on Keeping on.” Silver hair isn’t daunted by anything (she even employs a dashing wheel), while (part of the job?) she keeps her high-pitched voice. John Owen-Jones, on the other hand, hits the nail on the head with Paul Hollywood. A top-notch cast is led by the supremely melodic Charlotte Wakefield as Gemma, a humble caretaker from Blackpool (but may does she win?).

sleepova begins with the startling suggestion that we can leave the show at any time, but thankfully, Matilda Feyisayo Ibini, a Nigerian-British author, teems with enough talent to make us listen, laugh, and stay firmly in our seats. We meet four black 16 year old girls in a bedroom soft play center (designer Cara Evans). Shan, at the center of an ace cast, suffers from sickle cell disease and is sensitively played by Aliyah Odoffin. Rey is outgoing yet vulnerable, beautifully played by Amber Grappy. Captivating as Funmi, Bukky Bakray searches for the boy(s) of her dreams and tries to make sense of her Yoruba heritage. And Shayde Sinclair is great as a devout Elle who begins to explore her gay sexuality whenever God isn’t blocking her view.

Shayde Sinclair, Bukky Bakray, Aliyah Odoffin and Amber Grappy in Sleepova.

“A Great Cast”: Shayde Sinclair, Bukky Bakray, Aliyah Odoffin and Amber Grappy in Sleepova. Photo: Tristram Kenton/The Guardian

The warm narrative, which Jade Lewis directs in a suitably relaxed style, gets messier towards the end (too hurriedly eventful within the time available), but each member of this fabulous four deserves a star.

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s epic 1943 musical Oklahoma! tends to rumble along with unrelenting hilarity, comfortably taking a backseat to the tragic story that is part of the plot. But New York director Daniel Fish’s Tony-winning vehicle, now in the West End after a run at London’s Young Vic last year, is a feat of transformation. Without sacrificing the entertainment of the original, he’s unearthed a sparse American drama whose harrowing finale rivals Lorca’s blood wedding.

The hesitant pace of the opening “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'” sets the uneasy tone. Wyndham’s theater has been transformed into a rifle club/bar, with gun displays extending into the theater’s pine-paneled boxes (nice work of designers Lael Jellinek and Grace Laubacher). And at the center of the drama is the henchman Jud. Patrick Vaill plays him as a pathetic loner with a steady gaze and brilliantly expresses his mental confusion. Will Parker, cowboy by James Patrick Davis, is a perky contrast, and Georgina Onuorah enchants as Ado Annie, the girl who “can’t say no” and says yes to every note with a voice of boundless power, her demure look is hilarious mixed with unbridled wildness. Lovebirds Curly (Arthur Darvill) and Laurey (Anoushka Lucas) are virtuoso performers and sing People Will Say We’re in Love without smiling – a gentle masterpiece.

As the second half begins, choreographer John Heginbotham introduces a bold new dance performed by the mesmerizing Anna-Maria de Freitas in a T-shirt dress with the glittery text “Dream Baby Dream.” She is carefree, wild and yet introverted. Because in this production, the complicated human feelings are always appreciated: depression, longing, loneliness – all the dangers of being human.

Star rating (out of five)
top girl
The great British bake-off musical

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *