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Eternal guilt: Dorian The Musical @SWKplay

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Dorian is a new musical that updates Oscar Wilde’s gothic novel from the uptight Victorian era to an undetermined period of gender fluidity and glam rock. On paper, musicalising the Picture of Dorian Gray to a period of glam rock, social media, and cheap shoes seems like a good idea. After all, Oscar Wilde’s gothic story is very adaptable. It has been the source of countless adaptations for the stage, television or movies. I was half expecting a trashy Dorian, similar to the early 1980s telemovie that shifted Dorian’s gender to a woman. This version falls into a so bad it’s good category with Anthony Perkins in a lead role, who as he ages under makeup starts to look like Andy Warhol.  And while it’s great to see a new show, a strong cast can’t compensate for such an earnest production with underpowered songs. There’s no sense of fun, and some curious staging and costume choices  -mismatched dresses, crocodile boots and furry suits - serve as a distraction. It’s currently playing at th

Racing with the clock: Around The World In 80 Days @TheUnionTheatre

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Around the World in Eighty Days at the Union Theatre is a youthful and energetic interpretation of Jules Verne’s novel. It’s silly and fun. And suitable for younger audiences over the holidays too. If you’re prepared to explain the scenes in an opium den and a rousing number about the virtues of polygamy.  Travel can be exhausting. In this piece adapted by Phil Willmott and Annemarie Lewis Thomas, there’s little time to dwell on the adventure. And each stop seems livelier than the next. No sooner as they stop in a particular city there’s a big song and dance extravaganza, expertly sung and executed. And then they’re off again. But you get the gist of the story anyway. Even if you shouldn’t think too much about it. Phileas Fogg (Sam Peggs) wagers a bet with his fellow members of his club that he could travel the world in eighty days. With his French valet Jean Passerpartout (Connor Hughes). Along the way they rescue a princess (Jasmin Minjoot) and get help from an English missionary Mi

Carmen follies: Carmen 1808 @TheUnionTheatre

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Carmen died twice for me last week. The first time at the Royal Opera. Barrie Kosky’s black, minimalistic yet infuriating production of Carmen has large chunks of plot read to you in French. The effect stops the action dead and bores the audience to death.  Then there was this Union Theatre production. Here in Carmen 1808, Carmen’s working for the resistance and standing up to the French during the atrocities of the Peninsular War. But it’s a passionless 90 minutes of political posturing.  The inspiration has been taken from the Goya’s Los fusilamientos del tres de mayo. There’s probably a great story about Goya and his transition to his black period. But it would have been nice to leave Carmen out of all that.  Bizet’s Carmen is sensual and sexy. Sexual politics not hard politics is what’s at stake. Here it’s given a flat musical treatment that feels part Les Miserables and part Allo Allo. Gypsies join the partisans to support the king, the ladies work in a cigarette factory (despite

Drifting on edge: Heartbreak House @theuniontheatre

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Heartbreak House, currently playing at the Union Theatre , is a glorious production with a strong cast. Funny, a little bit bonkers and intriguing. But too bad George Bernard attempts to layer everything with meaning and substance. Afterall underneath various subplots there are sharp observations about British indifference. These seem as relevant now as it was when the piece premiered in 1919. It opens with Hesione (Helen Anker), a bohemian Edwardian hostess inviting her friend and protégé Ellie (Leanne Harvey) to a weekend at her father’s house. She wants to prevent Ellie from marrying an older industrialist, Boss Mangan (JP Turner). And so she’s arranged a gathering of friends to prevent it from happening. Hesione’s father is the eccentric and cantankerous Captain Shotover (James Horne). He made his money in munitions and is trying to invent a weapon to explode enemy dynamite. They need a new invention as the money’s running out. Complications arise when Shotover’s estranged daughter