Tuesday, 5 December 2017

REVIEW: The Woman in White at the Charing Cross Theatre

The Woman in White opened on the West End at the Palace over 10 years ago in 2004, with a star cast that included Maria Friedman and Michael Crawford. The story is based on the 1859 Victorian novel by Wilkie Collins, “A tempestuous tale of love, betrayal and greed, adapted from Wilkie Collins’ haunting Victorian thriller, this is the premiere of Andrew Lloyd Webber and David Zippel’s revised score.” The Charing Cross Theatre has its flaws as a building, where I was sat I felt very out of the action and the chance to really immerse yourself was sort of lost by tunnel vision from my seat. 

The story itself is lacking in content, the show moves very fast but nothing really happens most of the time. Even though the content may be a little empty, the performances and direction knew exactly what they were trying to achieve and this is where the heart and success of the production lies. 

Thom Southerland directs this production, the ups and the downs were portrayed beautifully and this innovative production, with Morgan Large’s set design, gives us drama and heart all in one. 

The score is lacking in any kind of memorable tunes (apart from tune everyone knows, ‘I Believe My Heart’) and the book leaves a lot to the imagination however in this adaption the gaps have been filled by Southerland and whether or not they’re meant to be there, they’re in the actors minds and we get that as an audience. 

Carolyn Maitland plays the unlikely heroin of this story, Marian Halcombe. Having not been familiar with the story I didn’t think she would be the character carrying the show along but with her precision within her character she took us on this journey. 

Anna O’Bryne plays Laura wonderfully, you can see why she has won awards and originated roles in huge productions. She is perfect casting in this and by the end I was completely heart broken and inspired by her performance. 

Ashley Stillburn and Chris Peluso also both give stunning performances, one we hate and one we love. The balance between them was fantastic and both have stunning voices that fitted with such ease into this piece. 

Sophie Reeves provided incredible and unsettling vocals as the Woman in White, Anne Catherick. She haunted the stage whenever she appeared and the presence she brought to the stage heighted the drama. 

Greg Castiglioni steals the show in his 11 o’clock number, this part could be done very over the top but with his comic skills he has played that down and what we get is a genius portrayal. A fantastic performer who’s performance you’ll remember for a long time after. 

Although this may not be the best piece in the world, the creative team and cast have not let that stop them putting on a show with heart, drama and precision. The piece may be lacking in an interesting through line but this particular production with these performances, it becomes one of the must see shows to end 2017 on.

Review by Mark Swale 

Rating: ★★★★

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