Friday, 28 August 2015

Review: Bugsy Malone – Lyric Hammersmith

Last weekend I headed to the Lyric Hammersmith with my family to see the much raved-about production of Bugsy Malone. The show itself isn’t one I know that well, besides having seen a school production years ago and non-sequential bits of the 1976 film, but it was quite nice to go into the show with very few preconceptions.

I was also pretty excited to be visiting the Lyric for the first time. I love how the bar area looks simple and professional, as well as having a creative and informal feel to it. And I would definitely recommend factoring in enough time for a drink in the roof garden. The performance space itself still holds much of its original 19th century design, and is a lovely auditorium size where I would imagine you can see the stage well from wherever you are sitting. We were on the back row of the circle and had a perfect view.

Whilst the plot and progression of any kind of narrative are what I would usually touch on first, I’m going to skip over any comments I have about the flat script, as that’s kind of the point of this show. Yes the story itself is predictable, unoriginal and somewhat tacky, but it’s the effect of layering these clichés with the hilarity of the child actors that gives Bugsy Malone its selling point and irresistible comic spin.

The set was one of the show’s strongest points; the central structure worked really well in providing various different backdrops, and there were some really lovely details within the extra scenery and props that were brought on and off. I was particularly impressed by the car chase scene, both by the creative element of the vehicle and the fight choreography that ensued.

As expected, it was the young performers who made the show what it was. On Saturday night the iconic role of Tallulah was played by Asanda Jezile, although the complexity and maturity of her performance meant that I was deliberating her age for a good few scenes before I was sure she wasn’t an adult. Jezile is an astonishingly natural actress and skilful vocalist, and brought the perfect balance of allure and sass to the part of Tallulah.

Jenson Steele was a confidently comedic Fat Sam, and stole most of the laughs of the show. Steele’s Chicago accent was notably well-sustained throughout the performance, it’s just a shame that, along with a few of the other young actors, some of the dialogue was lost in its slightly rushed delivery. Fat Sam’s scene change sketch was one of the funniest moments of the show, and Steele’s diligent timing and hilarious expression really drew out the script’s comic gems.

Sasha Grey had the perfect little attitude for Bugsy’s lines, playing to the cool and suave side of the character as well as the cheeky romantic and witty outbursts. Grey’s stage presence was also notably impressive for such a young actor.

For this performance, the role of Blousey Brown was brought to the stage by Zoe Brough, a talented and convincing actress with a beautiful voice and remarkably developed vibrato. Although Brough’s acting was very fluid, her singing performance often felt comparably static, but it was hard to tell whether this was her natural stance or a directorial decision. But still, I found myself throughout the show willing on the next moment where we would get to hear her sing again!

Emily Beacock as Lena/Babyface and Archie Lewis as Dandy Dan both gave the most adorable and hilarious performances, with their confidence and implied self-assurance contrasting with their littleness in the best way possible.

Last but definitely not least, William Wright-Neblett proved himself as a triple-threat with his portrayal of Fizzy.

Although the talent and enthusiasm of the young performers barely left space on the stage for anyone else, the adult ensemble provided an entertaining counterpart as the arguably worst gangsters around.

I had such a fun evening watching Bugsy Malone, and was continually impressed by the performance throughout. The production is on until 5th September, but tickets are all, deservedly, sold out. Given the standard of this show, I will definitely be tempted to return to the Lyric Hammersmith in the future!

Have you ever seen Bugsy Malone or been to the Lyric Hammersmith? What have you enjoyed recently at the theatre?

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