Friday, 29 March 2019

REVIEW: Fiddler on the Roof at the Playhouse Theatre

A much loved and classic musical, Fiddler on the Roof is once again seen in the West End after having previously been there in 2007 at the Savoy Theatre. A most recent production include a revival at the Chichester Festival Theatre in 2017, this production transfers straight from the Menier Chocolate Factory into the Playhouse Theatre. 

Fiddler on the Roof is set in the Russia at the turn of the century; Tevye and his wife are set to wed off their five daughters. Wanting to stick to tradition and go through the match maker to make better lives for themselves, the girls decide to go with their hearts and marry for love overpowering their faith and families traditions. In the end they are driven out by Russian government who want to clear the villages of the Jewish people, leaving them three days to pack up and leave. The families separate not knowing when, or if, they shall see each other again. 

This show seems more relevant than ever, living in all this Brexit mess we must remind ourself of our true values as a country. This group of people are being driven from their homes, not because they’ve done anything wrong, just because they do things a little differently. The character of Tevye also is being pulled in two directions; the traditional side and his beliefs and his families well being and wishes. We see a man, who has been taught that life works in a certain way, changing his mind due to the next generation wanting different things. He talks about how the traditions he lives by were once new, giving us the realisation as an audience that we must uphold our beliefs and embrace them but allow them to move along with the times. We have to come together and embrace each other, we may not understand one another but we are all here on this earth so lets make the most of it. Something a few people in this country and around the world could definitely learn.

Robert Jones (Set Design) has transformed the stalls into the village the show is situated in; the walls covered in trees and lighting (by Tim Lutkin) that creates an atmosphere that tells you you’re about to experience something very different. However, when I looked up to the circle, the atmosphere was lost and the usual theatre layout was still in tack above us. Whether you’re sitting in the Stalls or above, you’re experience of the show could differ hugely. 

In this new production, directed by Trevor Nunn, it feels truly authentic with acting so subtle and believable we felt like we were there witnessing it in the village with them. The vocals were stunning however the sound seemed to be pointing directly at the stage leaving us feeling a little left out and underwhelmed by the powerful voices on stage. In an environment that is quite immersive this doesn't really go hand in hand. 

Andy Nyman gave a storming performance as the lead role of Tevye, he had the perfect balance of comedy and authenticity. We loved him, feared him, wanted to shake him but also knew him inside and out. This is the key to a perfect performance. 

Judy Kuhn gives the same qualities as Nyman in her performance, a mother torn but her family and her faith. Her material but strict manner gave a heartbreaking conflict and interesting contrast to Nymans performance. 

Molly Osbourne (Tzeitel) and Nicola Brown (Chava) in their professional debuts gave stunning and such professional performances, you’d think they were seasoned pros. Both had a vulnerability that was heart wrenching but a strength that also empowered. 

As Hodel, Harriet Bunton really is a gem in this show. Her voice was beautiful and what was a nice touch was that her voice had the classical sound needed for the show but with little contemporary moments which was interesting for this character especially. 

Having seen Stewart Clark in a few things, I had no idea he had a voice like that. Absolutely stunning. As a part, Perchik isn’t the best written but he truly filled it out and was perfect casting in this show. 

A mention must go to Adam Margilewski who really stood out, an incredible dancer amongst his fellow talented cast. 

However my experience was dampened by the terrible theatre etiquette around me. Usually I don’t like to comment on this as it has nothing to do with the show but my enjoyment of this production was ruined by the behaviour of those around me. Due to the nature of the show (the actors constantly walking through the auditorium) ushers are briefed to not go into the seats allowing everyone to browse instagram as they chose. A lady sitting in the box at the side of the stage even tried to take a picture of one of the actresses as she climbed through past her to sit on the ledge of her box. Loud snacks being consumed paired with the chatter of those around me actually over powered the volume of the show. The production and theatre are at fault here with the negligence of any announcements or signs saying that this is prohibited during the performance. If the show wasn’t as good as it was I would reflect this in my rating but as the show itself is brilliant I can’t bring myself to do so.

In saying this, Trevor Nunn directs a fantastic a much needed revival of Fiddler on the Roof. This production is revolutionary and has come around exactly at the right time. 

Review by Mark Swale 

Rating: ★★★★

Seat: J22 Stalls | Price of Ticket: £75
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