Company: Kenmac Productions
Venue: C – (-1)
Date: 22 Aug ’07
Sondheim shows are typically not simple to put on, and any company doing so earns instant respect from me if it doesn’t sound awful. This was actually a very slick production; no terrible acting and quite a lot of excellent performances. As Edinburgh shows go, it was of a very high standard, with every department of the production turning in something they can be very proud of.
Nonetheless, I was slightly surprised to see a few 5 star reviews going to it; there were a couple of little niggles which for me kept it irritatingly not-quite-perfect. All musicals have to really try very hard to avoid the odd technical gremlin in Edinburgh; having someone else use your venue throughout the rest of the day and the very short get-in times mean you really have to be extremely competent to avoid them. Sure enough, the traditional occasional radio mic cut-outs and pops and clicks were in evidence, and the lighting rig looked as if one or two of the specials were not quite focussed where they were meant to be by the time I saw the show.
Such things go with the territory, however. What were less forgivable were a few directorial oddities. The blocking throughout was rather too self-conscious for my taste, and gave me a similar sensation to the one I get watching Tarantino films: one of being all too aware of the presence of the director. The worst thing about it, though, was the final song, “Being Alive”, being delivered for much of its duration to the back wall thanks to the blocking of the scene. Whilst the arrangement of the cast on the stage was very pretty, I personally would much prefer to be able to see the face of the lead character during his pivotal final song. To deny Antonio Mcardle the opportunity to act this song fully seemed perverse, and a shame since his performance throughout was beautifully pitched and subtle. Some of the acting seemed a little strange in places, too: occasionally, lines were said with intonations that, if not actually wrong, jarred a little and seemed out of character.
Still, the above is nit-picking to justify not lauding the show from start to finish. The fact remains that what we got was a highly polished show. The wardrobe and orchestra can be paid the ultimate compliment: that they carried off their roles so flawlessly, I rarely noticed them as anything other than an extension of the characters. The lighting and sound design were similarly understated and effective, hiccups notwithstanding. Despite some of the direction, the acting was consistently good throughout. A very strong production of the show.