THE ROAR OF THE GREASEPAINT, THE SMELL OF THE CROWD
book, music and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley.
Finborough Theatre above The Finborough Wine Café 118 Finborough Road SW10 9ED To 2 July 2011.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat & Sun 3pm.
Runs 2hr One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 847 1652 (24hr no booking fee).
Review: Timothy Ramsden 12 June.
Well-Judged production of ill-judged choice for revival.
It ought, of course, to be the crowd that roars, the traditional theatrical make-up that’s odiferous. So this has it the other way round from what’s expected in the match of object and sensory phenomenon. Get the point?
When Lesley Bricusse and Anthony Newley mounted the show in 1964, the idea might have seemed not just amusing, but alternative and progressive, part of the fissure-creating process along with whatever else was breaking new artistic ground. Yet it made minimal impact in Britain; and how tired the piece seems when the gloss of fashion has passed from it.
It’s more amusing to consider that, alongside musical theatre novitiate Elaine Paige, listed last among the Urchin chorus, star roles at the Nottingham premiere were taken by Willoughby Goddard, voluminous TV baddie whose singing prowess rarely figured in his small screen persona, and comedian Norman Wisdom.
They played Sir and Cocky, a kind of musical Pozzo and Lucky in Waiting for Godot terms, or the antipathetic yet interdependent master and servant Hamm and Clov of Beckett’s 1957 Endgame. Delirious as the thought of a Beckett musical might be, this hardly fits the bill, despite surface similarities. For the aim here is a simplistic comment on power in English society.
Fashionably enough for the time, setting and characters have no reality. Oliver Beamish’s expansive Sir arrives, accompanied by Matthew Ashforde’s thin, cowed Cocky, and announces the location as suitable for what he calls “the game”. He decides where it’s played (in Tim Goodchild’s setting, on a floor marked-out as a game-board, with ladders suggesting there ought to be snakes, amid a space suggesting a circus big-top), what the rules are, and when they change to secure his constant victory.
Watched by a white-faced Urchin chorus suggesting big-top clowns, Sir and Cocky, plus Sir’s acolyte Kid, are deployed smartly by director Ian Judge. Yet song after song starts out with the confidence of hit tunes, but fail to deliver – though ‘Feelin’ Good’ seems to, owing to Terry Doe’s terrific voice. It’s the same every time; any sense of success is the singer’s not the song’s.
Sir: Oliver Beamish.
Cocky: Matthew Ashforde.
The Kid: Lucy Watts.
The Girl: Louisa Maxwell.
The Negro: Terry Doe.
The Bully: Tahir Ozkan.
The Urchins: Jennifer Done, Beth Morrissey, Elizabeth Rowden, Tanya Shields, Charlotte Silver, Hannah Wilding.
Director: Ian Judge.
Designer: Tim Goodchild.
Lighting: Mark Doubleday.
Sound: Jonathon Brain.
Musical Director: Ross Leadbeater.
Choreographer: Tim Jackson.
Associate musical director: Magnus Gilljam.