Seriously….never talk to strangers

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I recently was pleased to be able to catch the West End version of Strangers on a train before its run ended on Feb 22nd. I’d heard a few reports from it but not much about it, so it was good to see it with an open mind and minimal knowledge.

Probably best known as a film by thriller maestro Alfred Hitchcock, Strangers on a train started life as a novel by Patricia Highsmith. This adaptation is by Craig Warner and although it was entirely new to me,  there was a definite movie feel about the production.

Jack Huston stars as the incredibly creepy Charles Bruno, a man with plenty of money and no sense of personal space. From the outset it is clear he has homosexual preferences and takes an instant liking to Guy Haines (Laurence Fox), an architect who has become the local laughing stock after his wife Miriam (Myanna Buring) has had a string of affairs.

After an initial meeting in a train carriage and then being persuaded to take a drink in Charles’ room, Guy reveals to Charles that he now has another girlfriend and that Miriam is making a divorce difficult for him. Charles then announces that he wants his father dead. And from there is the plot – Charles’ idea. Two strangers, two murders and neither seemingly connected.

Quite soon after their meeting, Charles strangles Miriam. Guy, who is now with Anne – his girlfriend (Miranda Raison), hears the news and begins to worry and is questioned by the police.  He was never planning to go through with the murder of Bruno Senior and is upset wirh the events.

Charles, however, begins to send letter after letter to Guy. He turns up everywhere, always uninvited and unwelcome, including an appearance at Guy and Anne’s wedding. Letters are also sent to Guy’s family, colleagues and friends. The mental torment for Guy is unbearable so he commits the crime in the hope of being left alone, but sadly things don’t stop there.

The play is cleverly done. Entirely in shades of black, white and grey, the costumes and set look extremely effective. The use of a turntable divided into three also means there are multiple sets but the changes are done simply by moving the round to the next third, making everything nicely slick. The use of background music to set both the period and the tone of the show and of black and white projections all help to create a movie-like and interesting piece. I thought the use of the cast to create tableaus while the man action went on in the foreground worked exceptionally well, apart from the occasional blink they could have been mannequins.

The most disappointing part for me was the end. Tension had been built nicely throughout act one and during act two I wanted nothing more than for Charles to die. Even his mother (Imogen Stubbs) who had a strange, seemingly incestuous relationship with her son, didn’t want to know him. But the final scenes,  after a fantastic performance from the cast, were a bit of an anti-climax and appeared a bit hurried.

Nonetheless I enjoyed it very much,  especially Huston’s somewhat deluded and rather scary character which was faultless. It is a shame that a talented cast such as these have had a short run but if you get the chance to see any of them perform in the future then I highly recommend them.

Keep Dreaming,
Naomi xx

Oh! What A Night

I cant believe how long it has taken me to finally get around to seeing today’s show, but finally after hundreds of rave reports and a cracking ticket bargain, I got to see Jersey Boys.

I knew, of course, of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons – I couldn’t be such a huge fan of the ’60’s and not have heard some of their music. However, what I didn’t know was about them.

Jersey Boys tells the story of the band, from its conception, through the trials, tribulations and sometimes tragedies of the group as a whole and as individuals.

Started byTommy DeVito (Jon Boydon), a slightly temperamental gambler with big ideas, who’s original band members – himself included – spent a large proportion of time in jail, he discovers a young lad with a hugely distinctive voice.

This young man is Frankie (Ben Jennings). Because he is young he is easily influenced and he is under Tommy’s thumb. Decisions are all made by Tommy, though it is debatable that Frankie would ever have been so successful had Tommy not helped to kick start everything.

As time passes and agents begin to get involved,  Tommy struggles to maintain control and becomes resentful. The other group members – Bob Gaudio (Edd Post) and Nick Massi (David McGranaghan) are sick of being constantly renamed and never getting anywhere.

Tensions flare up and the discovery that DeVito is thousands of pounds (well, ok, dollars) in debt, along with the agreement between Gaudio and Valli, is the final straw.

The show covers the story, in detail and with narration – mostly from DeVito but from each member of the group – about their rise to fame, their relationships both inside and outside the band and beyond,  right up until now.

The soundtrack is a surprising one due to a number of songs being covered, and ultimately better known by alternative artists, an example of this being ‘Cant Take My Eyes Off You’ perhaps most familiar by Andy Williams. Other hits include ‘Walk Like A Man’, ‘Ragdoll’ and ‘Big Girls Don’t Cry’ but these are by no means the only ones.

The staging is done over two levels and the clever use of lighting enhances the speaker or situation at any one time. I also enjoyed the way that TV or concert appearances were performed using techniques such as ‘live-cams’ and using upstage for downstage.

Ryan Molloy is world renowned for his performance as Frankie and he has a huge following.  His understudy,  Jon Lee, is also an experienced performer after a pop career with S Club 7 and a stint as Marius in Les Miserables. However,  our Frankie for the evening was Ben Jennings. I have to say I thought he was incredible and I am not in the least disappointed that he was on. Jennings is definitely going to be a name to watch out for, his vocals,  even at such a high range, were flawless and he was great to watch.

I thoroughly enjoyed Boydon’s DeVito, though every one of the ‘Seasons’ was convincing. I think my favourite scene had to be Gaudio’s ‘initiation’ into becoming a man, accompanied with the lovely ladies of the cast.  A mention must also go to Tommie Lee Jenkins who played a number of small roles but his moves were slick and he was captivating.

This is a show that would appeal to all ages. It is not mind-blowing and there are few special effects or fancy pieces of set. But what you get is a good solid show, with toe-tapping tunes, a well thought out and easy to follow story and one which will put a smile on your face. Definitely worth seeing, though be warned, you will probably want to make a return visit.

If you have not seen the show,  or indeed if you have and are interested,  I recently interviewed Jon Boydon and he gives a lovely description of his character among lots of other things. You can find it here: http:// wp.me/p2RIFK-5I

Keep Dreaming,
Naomi xx