Going Out: Theatre Reviews

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Boyband

Gielgud Theatre, London W1 (0171-494 5056)

It is difficult to work out whether the makers of this musical are trying to create a new boy band, or merely presenting a narrative about a fictitious one. Peter Rowe's production emphasises the shallow nature of being a heart- throb. The plot is anorexic, the show's stars are two- dimensional and (perhaps predictably) the music manages to give new meaning to the word "bland". You're best off staring at their pecs. My prediction? This will go far.

Rachel Halliburton

Twelfth Night

Open Air Theatre, Regent's Park, NW1 (0171-486 2341)

This interpretation from Rachel Kavanaugh taps into the hedonistic atmosphere encouraged by a balmy evening in Regent's Park. The Twenties setting is appropriately androgynous for the play's gender-bending love tangles, as evinced by Emily Hamilton's spry Viola and Harry Burton's darkly soulful Orsino. But both lose out to the comedy: Peter Forbes is a compelling Toby Belch, Christopher Goodwin is movingly comic as Malvolio, and Paul Raffield steals scenes as a flailing Aguecheek.

RH

Sparkleshark

National Theatre, London SE1 (0171-452 3000)

In Philip Ridley's play aimed at children aged nine and over, a bunch of working-class adolescents improvise a fairy tale in order to distract a gang from dangling a nerdy friend over the edge of a block of flats. Despite Terry Johnson's gutsy production, it's pretty far-fetched to imagine they could ever forget themselves so far as to do this. Even the good linguistic jokes merely emphasise the implausibility of the play. "The story belongs to all of us," the adult cast cries. Tell me another one.

Paul Taylor

The Merry Wives of Windsor

Open Air Theatre (see above)

In Alan Strachan's production, Falstaff's thwarted attempts to cuckold the suspicious husbands of Windsor are played out against a backdrop of colourful traditional costumes that would not have been unfamiliar to Elizabeth I. Robert Lang doesn't quite embody Falstaff's larger-than-life aspect but serves up some delicious comic moments. The carnival atmosphere and Catherine Jaye's music, along with some sparkling and light-hearted performances, add to the sense that this is a festive comedy.

RH

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