The Kissing Dance, 26th March 2011 (matinee), at the Jermyn Street Theatre, running until 23rd April 2011
Having recently seen Howard Goodhall’s Love Story at the Duchess, and being left with mixed feelings, we were very curious to see this earlier work, given its first professional production after twelve years in relative obscurity. Our efforts (which included braving the TUC march and narrowly avoiding being kettled) were richly rewarded.
Firstly the source material seems to suit Goodall’s style very well. He has chosen a play (Oliver Goldsmith’s ‘She Stoops to Conquer’) that is already a classic, and the music adds warmth and a lightness of touch that might otherwise be absent from this comedy of manners. We also found something else that we felt was lacking from Love Story – more duets and ensemble singing. This play is all about relationships, status and interaction and the music was an integral part of the picture. Charles Hart’s sharp and witty lyrics flow seamlessly into the period comedy style, never more so than in the hilarious ‘Nonesuch’ which enjoys a welcome reprise later in the show.
In this high energy production, director Lotte Wakeham does her best with a large cast in a tiny space (if you want an extra adrenaline rush sit in the front row). It is a shame that a larger space couldn’t be found to give the dancing more scope and let us have the full country house experience – perhaps with exposure from this short run a transfer may happen. The direction of the action and sense of comedy is impeccable though, and the atmosphere of the interior and exterior scenes is cleverly evoked with simply props.
There were many performances to enjoy here, with Gina Beck perfectly cast as the plucky heroine, Jack Shalloo shamelessly creating havoc for the two young suitors as Lumpkin, and David Burt finding just the right balance between pomposity and genuine affection as Mr Hardcastle. Two performances really stand out, however – Ian Virgo and Beverley Klein as Marlow and Mrs Hardcastle, his future mother-in-law. Both have a gift for physical comedy and an emotional range that puts flesh on the bones of characters who might otherwise seem absurd and unlikeable. And they are excellent singers. Marlow’s internal struggles with his split personality of social awkwardness and lechery are a joy to watch, whilst Mrs Hardcastle’s obsession with fashion and jewels culminates in a solo number declaring her love for jewels – Marilyn Monroe it ain’t.
The ‘boxing match’ style setting of the lover’s first interview is brilliantly done, and the scenes between Marlow and Mr Hardcastle with their social misunderstandings work extremely well, as do the more touching moments, such as George Hastings’ lament, where he is serenaded in the garden by the drunken staff as he sings.
Although there were many performances to enjoy, it has to be said that not all of them met the same standard singing-wise. Not all of the instruments worked equally well, although the on-stage use of piano, violin, and accordion helped the action to keep pace and added colour to the music.
Overall we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and were enchanted with Goodall & Hart – what shame this is their only work together.
…….[update 29.3.11 – well it would be if it were true, but Tim has kindly pointed out that Goodall and Hart also collaborated on ‘The Dreaming’, and ‘Catwalk’ – details below. Thanks Tim! That’s the last time we rely on the programme for information…..]