SATIN ‘N’ STEEL
by Amanda Whittington.
Queen’s Theatre Billet Lane RM11 1QT To 25 February 2012.
Tue-Sat 8pm Mat 11, 23 Feb 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr One interval.
TICKETS: 01708 443333.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 6 February.
Popular style with music onstage and emotional song-and-dance behind scenes.
After two days watching casts of a dozen or more on pub-theatre stages, it’s ironic to find the Queen’s far larger stage occupied by Amanda Whittington’s 2005 two-hander about Satin ‘n’ Steel, a northern musical duo whose career never takes-off.
Whittington starts at the end, casting a sadness over the retrospective, from the moment Teena Satin (as she’ll become) stands up, and out, at a talent night where Vince Steel (as he’s named himself) is performing. Performing’s his life and he’ll carry on whatever, while she sees there’s more to look for than draughty dressing-rooms and entertaining on ferries.
Director Matt Devitt knows this kind of theatre inside-out, as his production – despite a few long scene-changes – shows. And Mark Walters’ set craftily disguises that the play’s several sizes smaller than the stage.
Though the story’s bunched mostly into the second act, Devitt can rely on his Hornchurch audience not caring two hoots for that so long as the music’s good along the way, and indeed a number of the first act numbers provoke a swaying clap-along. When the retrospective action increases it’s predictable enough –will she/won’t she stay with the act?
Will she/won’t she go back and finish the set they’re singing at sea? There’s no delving beyond the emotion-tugging surface – though Satin ‘n’ Steel was written for Nottingham Playhouse it bears the traits of Whittington’s work for John Godber’s Hull Truck theatre company. It’s accessible, good-humoured and emotionally unsubtle.
And it has two fine performances at the Queen’s, which gain sympathy without challenging the audience. Jonathan Markwood’s Vince is a trouper, a bit of a sexual two-timer who veers between men and women, but charming enough in his inadequacies, while Kate Robson-Stuart provides Teena with a sense of purpose and the will necessary to take her life forward from a relationship that’s going nowhere on stage or behind the scenes.
Musically, the show’s as strong as always at the Queen’s and given the colourful wash of Christopher Howcroft’s lighting, plus the scene-setting aids of the projections in Walters’ set, it should all keep Hornchurch humming happily throughout the run.
Vince Steel: Jonathan Markwood.
Teena Satin: Kate Robson-Stuart.
Director: Matt Devitt.
Designer/Costume: Mark Walters.
Lighting: Christopher Howcroft.
Musical Director: Julian Littman.
Choreographer: Hannah Welch.