Sunday, 31 March 2019

REVIEW: Hair at the New Wimbledon Theatre



Hair has had a long history both on Broadway and in the West End, with the original productions opening in 1968 and major revivals happening in 2009 and 2010. A revival opened at the Hope Mill Theatre in Manchester in 2016 with a transfer to the Vaults in 2017 and now the show heads out on tour around the UK in its 50th Anniversary. 

The piece opened with the introduction of Trump being announced as the new president of the United States, an attempt to try and make the connection between then and now with the shows themes and context. However this didn’t really work, the world is so alien to us nowadays that its hard to make the connection between how we protest political and social problems to how it is featured in the show. Although so many of the events are repeating, its hard to relate to because it is just so different from how we lead our lives as a society today.

Its hard to tell is the problems in the show are in the writing or the direction; the show deals with a lot of racial issues which, at the time of writing, would have been shocking and unspeakable but we have moved on now and its just a little inappropriate and offensive. In theatre, we are moving along with the times but this show seems to take us back a few steps in the progression we’ve had. 

In saying this, we are able to see the struggle of the people trying to rebel away from the governments rules and regulations, the young generation making their own life and choices away from their parents. The pressures to conform to societies rules and ‘the norm’ is something that can be rated to today. The world is changing and this production shows the start of this revolution. 

The show captures the era perfectly and teaches us about the communities created at the time to fight against hate and spread love.

This show has previously been at the Hope Mill Theatre and the Vaults, booth immersive and innovative spaces. We lose all of this in a traditional theatre, whilst the cast did speak directly to the audience and came into the auditorium it was only for a brief moment and felt forced. This leaves us feeling quite disconnected to the piece, especially with the directional choices, it can feel very self indulgent on stage at times. 

The grit and drama was lacking in the show, due to the writing and pace it
moved slowly without serving the story. It was only in the last 20 minutes of act two when most of the story unfolds and we get the drama that we’ve been craving for the past 2 hours. Let the Sunshine in really hit home and was a powerful ending to the show. 

The cast are very strong in this production, Jake Quickenden leads the company as Berger. His performance was cheeky and mischievous with fascinating mannerisms and personality traits that make him a mystery, he seems slightly lost in his life choices which give a great contrast in sections of the show. 

Daisy Wood-Davis plays Shelia and she has a fabulous voice and gives a charming performance. 

Whilst both Daisy Wood-Davis and Jake Quickenden are arguably the leads of the show, the stand outs are Paul Wilkins and Natalie Green as Claude and Cassie. 

Paul Wilkins has the most incredible voice and it is showcased perfectly in this show, he took you on a journey and through out he remained truthful and strong which read across so well to us. 

Natalie Green plays Cassie, whilst her character wasn’t as full as the others (due to the writing) she brings so much passion to her performance and her voice is insane, standing out in this ensemble piece. 

Aiesha Pease also provided stunning vocals as Dionne, her powerhouse voice was featured through the show and she blew the roof off! 

Maeve Black is the Costume and Set designer on the show, although the concept was initially striking and great to look at the stage has been designed almost as a fantasy utopia. Which means that the struggles and dangers of being in this community aren’t portrayed to the audience. 

However Ben M Rogers lighting design was stunning and took us to each place in the story. Precise and specific staying true to the pieces historical context but bringing modern twists on a lot of the scenes. 

Watching this production you can’t help but feel like this piece is slightly out dated, whilst we understand its message the way it is told is not relevant to our times, despite the efforts of the production relating it to Donald Trump. However a very strong cast with some of the best vocals you’ll hear in musical theatre, the piece has been given life in this new production and is a piece everyone should experience at least once. 

Review by Mark Swale 

Rating: ★★★

Seat: Stalls, H14 | Price of Ticket: £44
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