Friday, 7 September 2018

REVIEW: Hamilton (Lewis) at the King's Head Theatre

When Lin-Manuel Miranda’s over hyped musical Hamilton was announced for London West End someone tweeted @JoeMofoBro: “Lewis #Hamilton might be a really good racing driver but I don’t see why they have written a musical about him”. It was a very good question and I am still not sure of the answer. However Fiona English thought it was a good idea and wrote this show and David Eaton wrote the music and lyrics for it in range of styles including hip-hop, jazz, blues, and rap. I have enjoyed his work and that of director Benji Sperring before at the Kings Head but not on this occasion.

The evening gets off to a very slow start with a 10 minute delay in opening the House due to an overrun in the changeover from the previous show and then the audience is required to listen to the usual overlong plea for financial support from Adam Spreadbury-Mather, the Kings Head Artistic Director before we get a rather silly weak two page prologue about GDPR, Copyright and other disclaimers. It also apologises for the show being written quickly and asks if you don’t know anything about Lewis Hamilton or the rap musical “why on earth are you here”. The answer of course is to review the show!

The fundamental problem is that while Lewis Hamilton is an amazing and successful racing driver he is a rather serious and dull individual in the media. He does not have the charisma or charm of previous British winners like Graham Hill, Jackie Stewart or James Hunt. We see him develop and end his relationships with Ron Dennis (the team boss) and Nicole Scherzinger (a Pussycat doll) and his rivalry with Alonso but the main things we learn is that he got to realise the value of sponsors and got better at media management.

So we are left with the parody of the musical Hamilton and a detailed knowledge of that show would help appreciate that. Having seen it just once my knowledge was adequate but not sufficient although I could not help reflecting that the cost of a ticket for Victoria Palace would pay for an actor’s wages for a week at Kings Head! The costumes cleverly refer to the style and design of the original show and the music takes its starting point from that too. “Alexander Hamilton” becomes “Lewis Hamilton”, “the ten dual commandments” becomes the “F1 Commandments” and Kings George’s showstopper “You’ll be back” becomes Ron Dennis’s “he’ll be back” complete with crown. The choreography also draws influences from the original.

The cast of four Letitia Hector (Hamilton), Liberty Buckland (Nicole), Louis Mackrodt (Alonso) and Jamie Barwood (Big Ron) work very hard, dashing behind the curtains to change, are all likeable and make the most of the shows limitations with their audience asides and glances.

However there is too much exposition of Lewis’s progress, too much repetition in the format, the comedy is too weak and the end result is an overlong sketch which might suit a late night Edinburgh Fringe audience on their fifth show and pint of the day but is well below the standards the Kings Head can and will need to achieve in the run up to its move to its own new venue in 2020 when hopefully they can drop the plea for cash before each show and set standards for London’s own fringe venues.

Review by Nick Wayne

Rating: ★★

Seat: Stalls Row H | Price of Ticket: £18
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