Classical music review: Thin ice of modern life

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Indy Lifestyle Online
The Rink

Orange Tree, Richmond

Did anyone see Terrence McNally's Love, Velour, Compassion? (oops, that should have read Valour).

I thought not. If you were (very) quick off the blocks you might have caught the movie, but only Manchester theatregoers have had the chance to watch the original play. It won a fistful of New York awards but his work doesn't travel. The London run of his Maria Callas drama Masterclass hit the skids faster than you could say "What a pretentious load of ...".

When not using plays to discuss musical theatre, McNally actually writes it. He did the book for the latest Broadway blockbuster Ragtime and before that the Kander and Ebb musical Kiss of the Spiderwoman. But back in 1984, the three of them wrote .

Angel is, to borrow the term, "conflicted". After years in California, during which an evil costume designer has forced her to wear a hippy wig unseen in captivity since a particularly ghastly tour of Hair, she decides it's time to face facts. That means heading home to Anna her mother. There's a lot of unfinished childhood business to attend to as Angel tells us in the melancholy opening song "Coloured Lights": Leaving home / Years Ago / What was I looking for? / I dunno.

Angel shows up to discover that not only has Anna ruined her past by lying to her about her father and not loving her enough as a child, she's about to ruin her future. She sold off the rundown roller-skating rink they called home. Hell, the chorus boys - sorry, demolition men - are already there. It's a done deal. But wait... Anna forged Angel's signature so the sale won't go through... or will it? Cue confrontations.

The action takes place over a few hours of recriminations, but these are dramatised with flashbacks from their shared and separate pasts in which Anna's painful life is revealed - an all singing "Sex, lies and roller-skates". One of the main bones of contention is that Anna neglected to tell Angel that she was pretty, which puts her in the illustrious company of Barbra Streisand, who had the same problem in her grandiose vanity project The Mirror Has Two Faces. Streisand persuaded us she was an ugly duckling by wearing glasses, tan shawls and a beret. Angel, meanwhile, has a permanent weight problem, or so we are repeatedly told. Call me literal minded, but in this production, strong voiced Gillian Kirkpatrick looks like she might be flattened by a light breeze. But that's small fry compared to the other problems.

The big dance number with the excellent chorus singing and skating hell- for-leather around the Orange Tree's acting area - which is smaller than your living room - almost vindicates the entire project, but virtually everywhere else director John Gardyne fails to establish the right tone. His production lurches between comedy and tragedy but spends most of its time fixed firmly in unengaging caricature. As for the score, well, these guys may have written Chicago and Cabaret, but don't go expecting more of that.

They persuaded Chita Rivera and Liza Minnelli to play mother and daughter in the original. Even they couldn't save it.

To 4 July. Bookings: 0181-940 3633.

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