Seussical the Musical, Immersion Theatre @ Southwark Playhouse

 

Directed by James Tobias

Choreography by Chris Wittaker | Musical direction by James Doughty 

Music & Book by Stephen Flaherty | Lyrics & Book by Lynn Ahrens

Co-conceived by Eric Idle

22 November – 29 December 2018

This stage adaptation of Dr Seuss’ work brings to life a host of loveable character with a smile, whilst lightly touching on some serious issues.

Scott Paige and the cast of Seussical The Musical, Southwark Playhouse - courtesy of Adam Trigg

Marc Pickering does a wonderful job as the Cat in the Hat (and a host of other kooky characters), leading a cast of kaleidoscopically colourful creatures. The cast of 12 burst with an energy that is barely contained by the stage, and frequently spills out into the audience.

The musical elements are particularly impressive, even if they do take a little from the more classic Seussical rhyme schemes. Harmonies are struck with casual ease, although at times lyrics were lost under the band. Nonetheless, I found my toes tapping along, and the title song has been playfully plaguing me ever since.

The cast of Seussical The Musical, Southwark Playhouse - courtesy of Adam Trigg_2

Amongst all the fun, there are serious themes that, I was surprised to find, seem to be even more relevant to the adult modern landscape than to the Jungle of Nool. In a mere 70 minutes, issues of judgement, otherness, bullying, unrequited love and even body image are dealt with and – get this – resolved with childish simplicity. I left wishing that everyone on Twitter had to affirm that “a person’s a person no matter how small” before being able to type. As a family show, it’s not only delightful entertainment but also, perhaps, an opportunity to open conversations about acceptance and self-belief.

Amongst a talented cast, special mentions must go to Scott Paige (Horton) and Amy Perry (Gertrude) for bringing sincerity to their roles and a bit of depth to the production. Where at times the whole-cast numbers were overwhelming,

Scott Paige and Amy Perry (Seussical The Musical, Southwark Playhouse) - courtesy of Adam Trigg

My main criticism of this family-friendly fun-fest is that it lacks it lacks some of the genuinely creative imagination that make Dr Seuss’ works so brilliant. Despite being about imagination, it played too close to imitation for me to be inspired by it. Perhaps a risk or two would give it a little more to remember it by for those of us who grew up on the original.

Putting that aside, this is a lovely holiday-period experience. Grab the closest child to you if you need an excuse, or head down with anyone who needs reminding that even Sour Kangaroos can be nice.

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Tickets

Mendoza, Los Colochos @ Southwark Playhouse

24 – 28 October 2017

CASA Festival

Directed by Juan Carillo
Los Colochos Teatro

MENDOZA (FOTO ALMA CURIEL) 2.jpg

Photography by Alma Curiel

General Mendoza encounters a witch who prophesies his rise to leadership. Persuaded to take action by his wife, Mendoza begins an increasingly brutal and murderous rise to tyranny.

Performing in Spanish with English subtitles, Los Colochos, a theatre company from Mexico City, has created a re-imagining of Shakespeare’s Macbeth which is powerful and refreshing. The adaption is rustic and earthy, and feels deeply entwined with Mexican culture and politics. Partly inspired by the writings of Juan Rulfo and Elena Garro, the production offers an allegorical beginning to some of Mexico’s violent recent history.

It also features a live chicken. Which is amazing.

The adaptation of the Shakespeare is clever and effective. Characters are merged and changed in a way that only develops and humanises them further. For example, the play has been streamlined from the Shakespeare version – the porter, nurse, and most of the various court underlings and a few lords have been condensed into a single servant for the Lady Macbeth equivalent. Her gossipy, chatty character makes her instantly likable. Seeing Lady Macbeth with a childhood friend and her nanny brings a whole new side to the character, making her far more dimensional, and her actions and her madness more justified.

That goes for all the characters. They feel real, human, historical, down to earth, even if their actions are still monstrous. It has none of the pageantry of Shakespeare, but cleverly echoes it’s language, and retains it’s poetry.

The cast is wonderful to watch. Playful and engaging, and when the play requires it, intensely dramatic and emotive. They’re a cohesive and powerful group of performers, and on more than one occasion gave me goosebumps. They engage with the audience, melding in and out of them, confiding in them, and handing out food and beer.

That bears repeating. It’s very hard not to love a cast that hands you beers.

Juan Carillo’s direction is masterly. The play is dynamic, and a pleasure to watch. The props and staging are creative, the cast provides music and soundscape, masks are used to great effect for various characters, and the deaths are moving, gory and shocking.

It’s a mesmerising production. And did I mention the free beer?

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