Donmar Warehouse, London – until 8 June 2019
This is as unconventional production of Sweet Charity as you’re likely to see. Set firmly in the art milieu of Andy Warhol’s Factory, it’s so perfectly, silver-foil-wrapped acid-tabbed 1967 it’s like you were actually there.
Josie Rourke’s swansong at the Donmar has an end-of-term-party vibe and initially looks like she’s cast an old mate for shits and giggles. But Anne-Marie Duff defies you to ask just what Charity Hope Valentine did before she became a dance-hall hostess… and her reading of the part has so much more anguish and desperation than you’d get from a conventional musical theatre performance.
Hers is a curious kind of vulnerability that goes deeper than the tart with a heart, or the chaotic female who allows her life to be framed and defined by men.
Robert Jones’ set is endlessly inventive – a children’s ball pit for Central Park Lake, phosphorescent toys for Coney Island, ladders for almost everything – and wait till you see how they do the elevator.
Hiring a world-class choreographer like Royal Ballet’s superhero Wayne McGregor is a coup: the precision and energy in all his routines, from the frugging beatniks in the party scene to the hip-thrusting hustling of ‘Big Spender’ is a constant joy.
Arthur Darvill is a delight as Charity’s suitor Oscar, a performance of pure James Stewart diffidence – and chief among the hip-thrusting dancers, the outrageous Debbie Kurup eyeballed me so directly in ‘Big Spender’ I think we may now be engaged.
Fun, laughs, good time.