The Hope Theatre, London – until 28 January 2017
Sin, seduction, sex and jazz are brought into sharp focus in Mingled Yarn’s production of Joseph Moncure March’s narrative poem. Set across one evening, Rafaella Marcus’s electrifying production has plenty to offer in terms of energy, pace and solid cast but as it builds momentum is in danger of getting slightly carried away.
This unique piece of work follows one of the parties held by Queenie and Burrs, showcasing the glamour and greed that was enjoyed during the 1920’s. But at its centre, the cracks in Queenie and Burrs relationship begin to emerge, leading to an unexpected tragedy. Performed by a cast of two, Joseph Moncure March’s characters and story is brought to vivid life, with Marcus allowing the descriptive and poetic language to take centre stage to great effect – particularly evident as the piece gradually bubbles with tension.
By letting the audience use their imagination, the production which at first glimpse is basic and soulless is kept focused by the strength of the performances of Joey Akubeze and Anna Clarke who play a wide variety of characters at the party, swapping with great ease and style. Their confidence and use of the audience if effective, with a number of moments allowing them to speak almost directly to them making them feel almost as if they were there with them.
But it is not just their performances as characters which is effective, their vocals on songs featured such as ‘Royals’ and ‘Love Affair’ (with gorgeous jazz infused arrangements) are strong and seductive.
Throughout and as things gradually get more intense in Queenie and Burrs relationship, there is a great energy and drive about the piece, which occasionally is in danger of getting carried away – making the characters seem slightly more hysterical than required. If it were to slow down just a touch it would be easier to keep up with what was happening – even with the running time of just over an hour.
But this is a fascinating piece of work that really transports the audience back to the jazz age with great effect, becoming increasingly engaging as the show goes on. This tale of greed, jealousy and seduction is certainly vividly brought to life – it just seems to be told in too much of a hurry.