Kiln Theatre, London – 7 September 2019
Susie McKenna’s gorgeously atmospheric production offers a vocal masterclass from all of its cast.
On a hot summer’s evening, it is hard to imagine a more ideal way to spend a couple of hours being serenaded with some beautiful blues music, sung by a high quality cast and performed by an immensely talented and lively on-stage musicians.
While it would be fair to say that Sheldon Epps’ show doesn’t have a strong plot line, what it does have though is many blues songs intertwined sleekly to give insight into the character’s lives and backgrounds while based in a seedy hotel during the 1930s. Throughout it all, the audience is shown their joys, regrets, pain, dreams and memories through the power of music that keeps the audience thoroughly absorbed from start to finish.
Last seen in London 30 years ago, Susie McKenna’s highly accomplished and atmospheric production is filled with heaps of personality and heart that is reflected in the stunning performances from all of the cast. It is a production that embraces the full emotion to be found in the music that ranges from the upbeat renditions of ‘New Orleans Hop-Scop Blues’ to emotionally charged numbers such as ‘When Your Lover Has Gone’ .
Combined with the authentic and imaginative set design from Robert Jones, Neil Austin’s suitably varied lighting that enhances the emotion of the songs and performances well and Lottie Collett’s lovely costume designs, Blues in the Night is as wonderful to look at as it is to listen to.
But it is the performances that take the production to whole new level. Sharon D Clarke’s smoother than smooth vocals combined with her character’s sassy personality makes her mesmerising to watch. But it is her rendition of ‘Wasted Life Blues’ that sends shivers down the spine, revealing The Lady’s loneliness and isolation behind her lively nature. She has a wonderful warmth about her that makes her so compelling to watch.
Meanwhile, Clive Rowe as The Man has plenty of personality and is a joy to watch as are his interactions with the rest of the cast. In particular his rendition of ‘Wild Women Don’t Have the Blues’ really showcase his impressive vocals well. Debbie Kurup as The Woman captures her character’s sense of disillusion and vulnerability in a heart wrenching way that is almost painful to witness, while Gemma Sutton as The Girl whose hopeful naivety leads to heartbreak is sweetly charming throughout.
Gorgeously evocative, Blues in the Night is a real treat for the eyes and the ears thanks to Susie McKenna’s slick production and a vocal masterclass from the cast.
By Emma Clarendon
Blues in the Night continues to play at the Kiln Theatre until the 7th September.