JANIS JOPLIN: FULL TILT
by Peter Arnott.
Theatre Royal, Stratford East, to 05 03
Gerry Raffles Square, London E15 1BN to 5 March 2016.
Tues-Sat 7.30pm. Mat Sat 3pm.
Runs 2 hr 20 mins. One interval.
TICKETS: 020 8534 0310.
Review: William Russell 11 February.
Part play, part gig, perfect whole.
This opening production in the Theatre Royal’s spring season arrives garlanded with rave reviews from the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in an expanded version. Directed by Cora Bissett it is a powerful, in your face piece of theatre about one of rock’s greatest and most tragic divas.
The first half is Janis doing her act, in the second in a series of tiny scenes we find her in between songs reflecting on the problems of her life, taking drugs, propositioning out of loneliness the desk clerk in some on the road hotel and revealing the insecurities that destroyed her.
She died in 1970 of a drug overdose aged 27. It works both as concert – the audience were on their feet at the end punching the air with rapture – and as a play, albeit a slight one.
The evening belongs to Angie Darcy who plays Joplin. Like the star she is no looker, her hair is lank and her clothes a mess, but she has a voice that soars, screams, rejoices and despairs sometimes at one and the same time. It is both exhilarating and exhausting to see and hear and almost certainly to do. She is backed perfectly by a terrific band and in the play by Harry Ward as the leader of the group listening to her confessions with the resignation of one who has heard them time and again, and Ken Birk as the desk clerk resisting her plea for comfort scared of losing his job.
Full Tilt could have been a love in for Joplin fans, a kind tribute act event for worshippers at the shrine, but it is more than that. It is a piece of theatre in its own right which is moving and enthralling.
Janis Joplin: Angie Darcy
Understudy: Hannah Jarrett-Scott.
Desk Clerk: Ken Birk.
Musical Director: Harry Ward.
Musicians: Andy Barbour; James Grant; Jon Mackenzie; Harry Ward.
Director: Cora Bissett.
Designer: Jessica Brettle.
Lighting Design: John Wilkie.
Sound Designer: Garry Boyle.