This is a proper musical, not a collection of hit songs united by a flimsy plot. The plot is excellent, the tunes by Stuart Brayson are great and Tim Rice’s lyrics are classic: why have I never come across a song called “Love Me Forever Today” before? The acting and singing is also excellent as, of course, is Javier de Frutos’s choreography. The only name I knew in the cast was Darius Campbell but it took about half an hour to recognise him with his perfect American accent, talking and singing more like Burt Lancaster than Burt Lancaster ever was. Private Robert E. Lee Prewitt was so well played by Robert Lonsdale that I am amazed I had never heard at him. It is not based on the film but on the uncensored version of the novel, not published until 2011, including plenty of swearing and a scene in a gay bar, that add a gritty realism that reads true. It finishes in March so there are a some bargains around – try the TKTS booth in Leicester Square or the Showsavers website. It’s tragic that such a first-class musical is ending when mechanically constructed monstrosities such as We Will Rock You go on and on and on.
The Shed is the amazing new theatre at the National Theatre, temporarily replacing the Cottesloe which is being refurbished.
The Shed has been constructed as a “temporary venue celebrating new theatre that is adventurous, ambitious and unexpected.” Not too ambitious or unexpected in this case, though: director Rufus Norris and movement director Javier De Frutos previously worked together on the excellent London Road at the Cottesloe which was so successful that it transfered to the much larger Olivier stage where I saw it. Rufus Norris also directed the Don Giovanni and Dr Dee for the ENO.
“Table” is a celebration of six generations of a family through the table constructed, used and abused by each generation, from David Best, the carpenter who built it (and whose corpse was laid out on it) through to Su-Lin, the surrogate child of Anthony Best with his partner Ben, dancing on it below.
The play is nominally written by Tanya Ronder, Rufus Norris’s partner, but she explains in the programme (which you must buy if only to keep track of the generations) that it evolved through research and collaboration between the two of them and the nine excellent actors. That’s also how it comes across, as an excellent whole, much better than the sum of its parts. As you would expect over six generations, there are episodes of humour and episodes of sadness. Underneath all this is a common thread of selfishness versus commitment. This is not always as one might expect. Who is actually the selfish one: the nun running off to become a missionary in Africa or the atheist twin brother who stays at home, nursing his father after his stroke?