‘Fun, laughs, good time’: SWEET CHARITY – Donmar Warehouse ★★★★

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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.

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Johnny Fox
‘Johnny Fox’ studied Theatre at Lancaster University and Journalism at City before realising there was no money in either profession and concentrating instead on interior design for investment banks in Singapore, New York and Moscow. Back home, he now writes mostly about theatre, mostly in London, for arts and events websites. He blogs independently at www.johnnyfox.london.
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Johnny Fox
‘Johnny Fox’ studied Theatre at Lancaster University and Journalism at City before realising there was no money in either profession and concentrating instead on interior design for investment banks in Singapore, New York and Moscow. Back home, he now writes mostly about theatre, mostly in London, for arts and events websites. He blogs independently at www.johnnyfox.london.

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