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Posted by : Rod Dungate RG on Sep 26, 2003 - 11:47 AM Archive
A Star Danced: Book and Lyrics by John Doyle.
Music by Sarah Travis.
Watermill West Berkshire Playhouse.
Tkts: 01635 46044.

Runs: 2hr One interval, till 25 October.
Review: Stewart McGill, 24 September 2003.

A reflection on age and memory: an evening of 'moments' many wonderful but the parts not quite adding up to a whole.

It is excellent to see John Doyle's talented and multi-skilled music theatre ensemble back at the Watermill. Like Edward Hall's Propeller ensemble the music theatre team are core providers of the exciting programme evolving in this unique space.

The work is a reflection on age and memory. Doyle states in a programme note that approaching 50 brings a preoccupation with time, memory, reflection. To draw his thoughts together and provide the basis of Travis eclectic music score, Doyle uses Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing as the pivotal axis to develop the ideas. What, one wonders, would a reunion be like between the plays key characters many years after the shocking events of the Claudio-Hero wedding? In a contemporary context Don John becomes Joanne, Beatrice, Barbara and poor Claude still regrets the loss of Helen (Hero). It's a show with a pervading sadness as time switches from original moments to the present day reunion. We know now that Friends Reunited is responsible for lots of break-ups here a dysfunctional group do it for themselves.

I really love the work of this company and it is a joy to see so many of Doyle's regulars back on stage to single out individuals would be out of keeping with the nature of ensemble. My problem is more with the material source and the need to draw on Much Ado to provide the reflecting mirror. It's an evening of moments and there are many but perhaps not quite making up a satisfactory whole.

Again the Watermill's tiny acting area is reinvented (by Mark Bailey) with reflecting mirror and sparse chrome units nothing more is required as Doyle effortlessly moves his actor/musicians in and out of time and creeping age. Sondheim influences seem to abound and I was continually recalling FOLLIES, COMPANY and the time shifting MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG as possible touchstones for A STAR DANCED. It looks as though the company will be tackling Sondheim's SWEENY TODD in the New Year book your ticket now!

So, enjoyable, reflective and praise be a new music theatre creation staged out of London yet leaving me wishing for a source other than Shakespeare to drive the evening. Despite these reservations it still is a special event.

Liam: Robert Sterne.
Helen: Rebecca Jackson.
Peter: Jeremy Harrison.
Margare: Angela Sims.
Claude: Christopher Dickins.
Joanne: Nina Lucking.
Barbara: Karen Mann.
Ben: Edward York.

Director: John Doyle.
Music Director: Sarah Travis.
Designer: Mark Bailey.
Lighting: Richard G. Jones.
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