A staging of 1973 Robert Redford/Paul Newman caper The Sting with its complicated and long-forgotten plot would need the smart and snappy treatment of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels to bring it to life, not this clunky, acoustically unbearable rendition which feels like an amateur production of Guys and Dolls without music or dance.
At the interval, audience members struck up lively conversations with their neighbours mostly along the lines of “have you any idea what it’s about”. The accents are strange, and the harsh acoustic of the hall means every line has to be barked for any audibility – but that doesn’t even help because too many characters are indistinguishable from each other, the rules of illegal 1930s American gambling are lost in the mists of time – I have never heard anyone explain in three sentences what ’the numbers game’ is, let alone how it can be manipulated for profit by demi-monde criminals.
When baffled, my go-to is usually Lyn Gardner of the Guardian, for patient and succinct summaries of even the most arcane plots – but even she spent more than half her word count praising the refurbishment of Wilton’s which, although it still has awful narrow seats which cause buttock friction between even the slimmest of seat neighbours, is indeed subtly done because it still looks raffishly faded but now hopefully without the prospect of imminent collapse.
Pity the same can’t be said of The Sting, Peter Joucla’s production is too film noir for period authenticity and although Nina Kristofferson as a seductive-looking blues singer punctuates the action and narrates in sub-Damon-Runyon-ese the bits which are impossible to stage, it’s all too tedious for toleration.
Move along, people – nothing to see here.
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