Friday, 18 November 2016

REVIEW: Curl Up and Die at The Questors Theatre

The Questors Theatre, in Ealing Broadway, has been by far my most exciting theatrical discovery of 2016. Opened in 1929, this is one of the largest amateur theatres in Europe and has around 1500 members. The building contains a 350-seat playhouse, a studio, various rehearsing rooms and a vintage tearoom which I shall definitely visit again.

Curl Up and Die is hosted in the spacious 90-seats studio. When we enter, the open set reproduces a 50's hair parlour in the finest detail, with its pastel-pink wallpaper and the rows of funny-shaped bottles aligned on many shelves. A 'fermé' sign hung on the door suggests a wacky attempt at sophistication but everything around looks shabby and outdated.

Ruth (Catherine Rowney) has inherited the salon from her late Auntie and – despite being remarkably skilled – is currently struggling to meet deadlines. Together with the shop, she's also inherited an affectionate clientele of elderly ladies, who are more inclined to visit her for a cup of tea than for a grooming session.  In a last desperate bid to revamp the business, the nerve-wracked hairdresser decides to take part in the Fab Hair magazine competition, which promises a substantial cash prize that would allow her to afford a complete makeover. Today is the big day and everything has been planned in advance. The parlour will stay closed and Ruth's assistant Bryony (Rose Edwards) has already booked a model and a photographer.  What could possibly go wrong? Unfortunately, the regulars didn't get the memo about the unusual closure and start pouring in one by one. The model (Saskia Rothstein-Longaretti) is grumpy, the photographer (Dennis Farrin) rather clumsy and a series of unexpected visits create some truly brilliant moments.

Director Bryony J. Thompson does an excellent job in coordinating the ten cast members.

Despite them often being on stage all together, the show comes across as overall well-composed and thoroughly rehearsed, with only a couple of occasions where further polishing is needed.

As a costume designer, the same Thompson, picks a selection of outfits that are part modern and part evocative. Some of the wigs used aren't too realistic but seem to fit perfectly within the tacky undertone of the set and the exaggerated acting style.

Written and produced by Anna Longaretti and premiering at the Questors Theatre, Curl Up and Die is an exhilarating farce built on visually funny gags and well-devised characters, whose misconduct offers the principal comic contribution. Rather than a comedy that relies on veracity this a collection of unlikely disasters and scrambled acts that will have you in stitches before eventually falling into place. Go to see it if you're looking for a feel-good drama or need a genuine evening of laughter and make sure you arrive early to enjoy a cuppa in the lovely tearoom.

Review by Marianna Meloni

Rating: ★★★★
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