Friday, 22 May 2009

Company - Union Theatre, Southwark

Music/Lyrics: Stephen Sondheim
Book: George Furth
Director: Michael Strasson
Reviewer: Leon Trayman

The Union Theatre has been the place for excellent fringe musicals for the past few years, and their revival of Sondheim’s Company does not disappoint.

The Fourteen strong ensemble cast pull out all the stops for a memorable night at the theatre. Neil Lamont’s stark set gives a huge amount for the action, but it is rarely used fully by Michael Strassen’s otherwise excellent direction. Given the amount of space available, there are moments when actors almost fall over each other, struggling to get past each other down stage, without kicking someone in the front row. At times, the staging would be more suited to a production in-the-round, with actors facing upstage and out into the wings for extended periods.

Strassen has also employed a ‘neutral’ state for the characters; which at times is slightly odd. Lincoln Stone plays Robert, who’s friends; all either married, engaged or some variation therein, desperately try to get him married off. Stone has an excellent voice, that is full of Robert’s emotions, and has a wonderful tone throughout the show, despite some moments of very high vocal energy. His relationships with the other characters are always clear and he is utterly believable as 35 year old singleton.

Special mention must be made of Lucy Williamson who plays Joanne (originated by Elaine Stritch), and who performs a rendition of ‘Ladies Who Lunch;, the like of which I have never seen! Samantha Giffard’s Martha is also outstanding and “Another Hundred People Just Got Off Of The Train’ is delivered with aplomb. On the subject of voices and aplomb, Jane Quinn (Jenny) has phenomenal range of pitch and timbre, switching from cutesy, straight-laced New Yorker Jenny (both sober and stoned) to the Mother Superior of choristers!

The ensemble choreography, especially at the start of act two is excellent, giving us kick-lines, ‘Fosse’-esque fan hands, box-stepping, and even a cheeky little Charleston! This production fit a cast of fourteen, five band members (who are on stage throughout and do a sterling job!), and a really enjoyable show into one of the smallest and most versatile fringe theatre spaces in the capital.

Company runs at the Union Theatre until Sat 13th June
frontpage hit counter