Far from frivolous, this fashion-based drama is a great choice for Chichester Festival Theatre’s inaugural broadcast, from a venue that so often gets it right. Perfect escapism.
‘Brings clarity to a towering American masterpiece’: WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF – Bristol ★★★★
David Mercatali’s production of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf though long finds layer after layer in the lashings of marital discord.
‘Beautifully compelling’: ORPHEUS DESCENDING – Menier Chocolate Factory
Tennessee Williams’s Orpheus Descending may not be his greatest play but Tamara Harvey’s production for the Menier Chocolate Factory proves most affecting in the end.
‘Prepare to be challenged, provoked & entertained’: Mark Meadows stars in Orpheus Descending at the Menier
Actor Mark Meadows chatted to Emma Clarendon about starring in Tamara Harvey’s production of Orpheus Descending at the Menier Chocolate Factory.
‘A thing of real, gentle wonder’: FLOWERS FOR MRS HARRIS – Chichester
Some of the beauty of Flowers for Mrs Harris gets lost at Chichester Festival Theatre but it remains a striking new musical
“It’s a work of art… something not real, made to make you feel”
I had much love for Flowers for Mrs Harris when it premiered in Sheffield a couple of years ago, and so I was delighted to see Daniel Evans deciding to revive it at his new abode over in Chichester. My only cavil came with the placing of this most heartfelt musical in the vast space of the Festival Theatre rather than the intimacy of the Minerva where it might perhaps have been better served.
So much of the beauty of the show (book by Rachel Wagstaff from Paul Gallico’s novel, music & lyrics by Richard Taylor) comes from the fact that it isn’t a bells and whistles epic. It is something far more subtle that truly celebrates the ordinary in extraordinary, as Clare Burt’s charlady Ada Harris dares to dream of owning a Christian Dior dress and in working to achieve that dream, illuminates the lives of those around her.
Largely sung-through, the cumulative effect of Flowers for Mrs Harris is like a ripple billowing through a length of silk fabric, flipping it over – beguiling and beautiful, gentle but ultimately transformative. As Ada’s hard work takes her from Battersea to Paris, some nifty doubling in the cast sees her meeting contrasting figures to those for whom she toils. So Louis Maskell switches from accountant to dreamy photographer, Laura Pitt-Pulford from struggling actress to top model, Joanna Riding aristocracy to couturier, and all impress with their clear delineation.
And Burt is just magnificent the unassuming Ada, slowly coming to realise her place in the world, her worth and her right to a greater happiness than she ever dared dream of in the drudgery of post-war Britain. Lez Brotherston’s design looks superb under Mark Henderson’s well-observed lighting choices, and the conclusion is a thing of real, gentle wonder. Don’t just talk about wanting to see new exciting British musical theatre, go and see it now!
Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes (with interval)
Photos: Johan Persson
Flowers for Mrs Harris is booking at Chichester Festival Theatre until 29th September
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‘Fascinating from start to finish’: QUIZ – West End
Quiz is a thought-provoking piece of theatre that will really make you question what you perceive to be the truth.
NEWS: Chichester cast reprise performances in West End transfer of James Graham’s Quiz
Casting has been revealed for the West End transfer of James Graham’s new play Quiz, opening at the Noël Coward Theatre from 10 April to 16 June 2018, with previews from 31 March.
NEWS: Cast announced for another James Graham premiere, Quiz at Chichester
Gavin Spokes stars as Charles Ingram, ‘the coughing major’, in James Graham’s new play Quiz, based on Ingram’s famous cheat on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Full cast is announced for the Chichester premiere.
FLOWERS FOR MRS HARRIS – Sheffield Crucible
Flowers For Mrs Harris marks Daniel Evans’ farewell production at Sheffield’s Crucible and he bows out premiering a musical that is elegant, charming and beautifully crafted.