Thursday, 11 January 2018

Happy New Year and 'Follies' at the Royal National Theatre

A New Year and another year of blogging ahead.  So wishing you all a Happy New Year I'd also like to apologize for the trailing off of this blog at the end of last year.  There's quite a bit going on here, but more of that as the year progresses.

Last Wednesday the bf and I went up to London for the last night of 'Follies' at the Royal National Theatre.  For those who don't know 'Follies' is the work of the New York composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim.  It was first staged in 1971 in New York and has had twelve revivals since.  It is a massive and complex work and for these reasons it is not perhaps performed as often as it deserves.  Briefly the musical takes places at a reunion, 'our first and last', in the Weismann Theatre, New York, a building scheduled for demolition. The host is Mr Weismann himself, legendary theatrical impresario and producer of the 'Weismann's Follies' 'between the Wars'; his guest are his former artistes, in particular the famous 'Weismann Girls', and their partners. The drama focuses on two of the former girls in particular: Sally (Imelda Staunton) and Phyllis (Janie Dee)and their respective husbands, Buddy (Peter Forbes) and Ben (Philip Quast). The show is in part an affectionate tribute to the Broadway musical written at a time when New York was beginning its slide into decline, and in part a exploration of the space between dreams and reality, between the perfection of the theatrical world of, say, Florenz Ziegfeld and the muddy imperfections of everyday life, as we watch the lives of the leading characters unravel.  Bitter sweet may be an apt description of the tone.
And here I may just begin to run out of superlatives for this production was such an overwhelming experience.  It is no exaggeration to say that I've never encountered anything in my theatre going to rival this; wonderful song followed on wonderful song. (Twentyone of them all told. Sondheim has the most breath-taking fluency.) Acting, direction, choreography, design were all superb. (It's invidious to single out a particular talent but I have to mention the designer Vicki Mortimer, being a visual sort of guy.  Set and costumes were stunning.) In all then an incredible ensemble work, demonstrating British theatrical talent at its best.  To be honest it's had such an artistic and emotional effect on me I've been playing recordings of it over and over again on 'Youtube' since then.   As I'm doing now while I write this.  Thankfully a cast recording is in the offing.  I can't wait.

We had lunch at a favourite of mine 'Dishoom' (Shoreditch), and dinner at 'Canteen' at the rear of the Royal Festival Hall.  Both very good.

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