Tuesday, 5 November 2019

REVIEW: The Green Fairy at the Union Theatre

The Green Fairy is a new musical playing at the Union Theatre. It follows Jo and along the course of the show we discover all about Jo, her past and all those issues she’s faced which now have affected her relationship with her daughter. The show uses ‘The Green Fairy’ as a conscious for Jo, although the show has no relation to or doesn’t feature absinthe in any way this is an interesting way for us to follow Jo’s story. 

This piece has a lot of themes; child abandonment, alcoholism, friendship, homosexuality and marriage to name a few. My struggle with the show was that I didn’t really understand which one of these were most important, they were just all thrown in there to add drama but to me the focus wasn’t clear enough. 

Sold on the poster as a ‘Queer Pub Musical’, this isn’t correct. Yes, the piece does feature a lesbian relationship however this is not the centre of the show. And actually, credit to the writer for this, this never comes up as an issue or problem in the story. It is merely falling in love with someone else, rather than realising that the character is gay. But having seen the show, this is not the marketing route to go down as it sets an expectation that it will not fulfil, not in any bad way at all, just in the way that this is not what this show is about. 

Jack Sain is the Director, Book writer and wrote the music and lyrics (also with Stephen Libby) to this production. This also being his musical theatre writing debut, what he has achieved with this show is fantastic. Its new and fresh with an interesting and modern story. The direction of the piece was very clean and Sharp and the music was very strong. 

Act one feels quite long, Its all very clean however there is a lot for the audience to take in and at times the story got hazey, especially with the movement of time. In saying that, Act two moves much better and the story intensifies and all those things we witnessed in act one come together and the second half is much easier to follow from an audience prospective. 

There are also elements in this production that are just thrown in without the audience really understanding whats going on. Without ruining it, an 'accident' is spoken about by Jo, however the direction and lighting point to a much different idea behind that. The character of Eliza is so thin in substance that's its very hard to believe that she is a real part of the story. The characters of Toby and Daniel were also a tad wet, and when characters don't show much strength we easily forget them. 

This production has been done as an actor musician cast and the exchanges of instruments and showcasing of the actors other talents was incredibly impressive. 

Julie Atherton as Jo is absolutely stunning. She is one of the best comic actresses I have seen on stage but within this show she also proves how good of an actress she really is. She really does carry this show and this role is such a wonderful way for her to show the world what she can do. 

Some of the vocals from the rest of the cast may have been a bit shakey, however Emma Kinney and David Perkins stood out. I was drawn to both of them right from the start as their style of acting and story telling was perfect for this style of show. Kinney, whilst having very little to do, matched Atherton in talent. Both are certainly ones to look out for in the future. 

A mention must also go to the work of Katharine Heath whose set design was really beautiful. It fitted into the Union theatre space perfectly and it was simple but so effective for the shows needs. 

The thing missing from this production is a clear idea of what it is about, as an audience we may see other things in the story but as storytellers it needs to be much clearer and focused. With some finer tuning in the story, a clearer message and stronger vocals this has the potential to be a very strong new musical. 

The Union is the perfect place for the show as it currently stands, I would certainly recommend taking a visit to see this interesting, bold and brave new musical and to witness the talents of Julie Atherton. 

Review by Mark Swale 

Rating: ★★★

Seat: Unreserved | Price of Ticket: £22

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