The Hope Theatre, London – until 28 January 2017
First published in 1928 (having been banned and rejected for its sheer filth) this adaptation embraces the rhythm of the Joseph Moncure March narrative poem and of the time but whilst Anna Clark and Joey Akubeze give the 16 characters they play between their all there is something that makes this production feel a bit disjointed. The use of the two-handers is fine for the many duologue rhymes in the poem but it isn’t always clear who is who, it becomes easy to forget recurring but supporting character and the impact that it had on twenties society is understandable but is now a shocking work for its depictions of quite one note characters.
Where Mingled Yarn’s production shines is in its chemistry between the two actors, , and it is beautifully directed by Rafaella Marcus but they are let down by some adaptation choices such as the jazzy/lounge covers of ‘Toxic’, ‘Call Me Maybe’ and ‘You Give Love a Bad Name’, that goes on far too long in this 75-minute production, when Moncure March’s poem tells the story so well and with such vivid detail. It also embraces the intimate 50 seater space, using vinyl fruit as symbols for sexuality and a large bath tub amongst its props with inventive use of costume to set the scene. Will Alder’s lighting is crucial to this production as we move through the night in the space of an hour the play gets darker as the poem delves deeper into violence; physical, sexual and emotional.
Clark as Queenie and a whole host of characters adapts not only her voice but her whole body into a range of characters but Akubeze shines far better in the supporting characters as his depictions of Burrs and Black, Queenie’s lovers, are too subtle in difference and lead to a confusing final scene.
With The Other Place adapting this work into a musical this is very much the year of The Wild Party but even if you plan on seeing The Other Place’s production I would recommend this as a good and quick introduction to the work.