Book, music and lyrics by Marc Blitzstein.

Arcola Theatre 27 Arcola Street E8 2DJ To 18 December 2010.
Mon-Sat 8pm Mat 11, 18 Dec 3pm.
Runs:1hr 50min One interval.

TICKETS: 020 7503 1646.
Review: Carole Woddis 16 November.

Should Rock around the land.
Hard to believe ten years have passed since Mehmet Ergen transformed an old Hackney sewing-machine factory into an award-winning theatre. Since then Ergen has managed not only to put the Arcola on the theatre map in London but also founded Arcola Istanbul. Now with this iconic 1930s American musical Ergen is saying farewell to the old Arcola and moving to new premises.

What a signature musical to go out on. Marc Blitzstein’s subversive work was part of the hugely influential left-wing Group Theatre movement which also included Clifford Odets and Eugene O’Neill.

Openly critical of American capitalism, not surprisingly their work sometimes fell foul of the authorities. Indeed the first production of The Cradle Will Rock, `a play with music’ was itself banned. In this country, its first performances were presented by the equally committed, much missed Unity Theatre. Seldom seen since, Ergen’s revival is all the more welcome and pertinent at this time of economic febrility.

Who knows how the next few months will develop but The Cradle Will Rock, part political satire, pure agit prop, experimental in musical and dramatic terms, red hot in conviction, ultimately packs the punch that could certainly help to mobilise.

Set in Steeltown USA, with a huge cast of, on the one hand, down-and-outs, and on the other, the law, the press, the church, even the arts and education, all in the pocket of the local steel magnate, Mr Mister, its subject is corruption and a corrupt system.

‘Sell-out’ is the buzz word here, whilst Blitzstein’s through-sung score sometimes recalls Kurt Weill (whose one-time collaborator Bertolt Brecht first suggested the idea as a musical to Blitzstein). At other times its tone becomes operatic, at others bluesy.

Two outstanding numbers, `Nickel under the Heel’, sung by Moll, a street walker, and a lament for her framed husband, Joe, sung by his wife, Ella Hammer (an outstanding Josie Benson) are witty, edgy and brilliantly moving indictments of oppression.

First and foremost, though, this is a victory for teamwork, passionate outrage and production standards. The Cradle Will Rock should be seen throughout the land. Fabulous.

Moll: Alicia Davies.
Gent/Editor Daily/Reporter 1: Adam Linstead.
Dick/Junior Mister/Professor Scoot: Ian Midlane.
Cop: Rowan Thomas Clift.
Clerk/Sister Mister/Attendant: Rachael Louise Miller.
Reverend Salvation: Robin Samson.
Yasha/Steve: Stuart Matthew Price.
Dauber/Professor Trixie: Russell Morton.
Dr Specialist/Bugs: Nathan Osgood.
President Prexy/Sadie/Reporter 2: Nichola Lagan.
Mrs Mister: Adey Grummet.
Mr Mister: Aaron Shirley
Harry Druggist: Morgan Deare.
Gus/Professor Marnie: Hemi Yeroham.
Larry Foreman: Chris Jenkins
Ella Hammer: Josie Benson.

Director: Mehmet Ergen.
Designers: Lisa Engel, Hannah Penfold.
Lighting: Alex Wardle.
Musical Director: Bob Broad.
Movement: Hemi Yeroham.
Assistant directors: Laura Hemming-Lowe, Katharine Armitage.

The British premiere of The Cradle Will Rock took place at the Unity Theatre in 1951.
This production made possible in part by the support of the Unity Theatre Trust.
Produced by arrangement with Tams-Witmark Library Inc, New York.

2010-11-29 14:50:02

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