Tag Archives: Claudia Kariuki

Bare at Greenwich Theatre – 18th October 2013

22 Oct

After a very successful run at the Union Theatre Bare has transferred to Greenwich Theatre for a limited run of just under three weeks. After missing out on this show the first time round I was happy to get a another chance to catch this production.

If I was to describe Bare in one word it would be “drama”. I don’t remember the last time I watched a show that was so full of conflicts, heartbreak, anger and fear. And while sometimes things like that can make a show too heavy it really works for Bare. This show makes you laugh and cry, it touches your heart and soul and it will leave you completely drained. The story itself isn’t new – Peter loves Jason and Jason loves Peter but they are at a Catholic boarding school which makes their relationship not only difficult but basically impossible. And on top of that there’s Ivy who falls for Jason. Quite early on you get a feeling that things might not turn out well.

bare1

Michael Vinsen shines as Peter. His performance is heartbreaking and truthful. For me he is the stand out in this show and I can’t wait to see him on stage again. I am sure we will get to see a lot more of him on the London stage in the future. Ross William Wild plays Jason who is torn between his love for Peter and his fear of losing his face in front of his friends and family. He gives a great performance even though his vocals seem a bit weak from time to time. That might be down to general sound issues though as the singing seems to be drowned out a bit by the music now and then. Jodie Steele’s Ivy is the stereotyped popular, pretty girl at the school who ends up falling in love with Jason. She is just the right mix of sassy and vulnerable – and I know it’s shallow but I just have to give a special mention to those abs!
Claudia Kariuki steals parts of the show with her portrayal of Sister Chantelle. She provides some well needed funny moments in a show that is so full of drama, anger, fear and heartbreak.

bare2

I really like the score – there’s some proper rock/pop songs as well as a few wonderful ballads. While I enjoy dance scenes I think the choreography is actually a bit much at times and takes away from the intensity of the whole piece. But then that is just my personal preference. The audience seemed to love every dance step and really went along with what was happening on stage.

This is no huge West End production. There’s little set and it’s not as slick as some of the big shows in town. But Bare has one thing that is more important than that: Soul. Combine this with a stellar cast that gives their all night after night and you get a pure gem of a musical.

bare3

Sadly this production is only running until the end of the week. If you do get the chance please try and get down to Greenwich to see the show. You won’t regret it.

Bare is playing at Greenwich Theatre until 27th October. To book tickets go to http://www.greenwichtheatre.org.uk/.

Ragtime at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre – July 14th 2012 (evening)

18 Jul

A visit to the Open Air Theatre in the middle of July. It seemed like a brilliant idea at the time of booking – a lovely summer evening and maybe a picnic before the show. In the end I spend about 3/4 of the performance sitting in the pouring rain (my wallet took 2 days to dry completely!).
But that’s the risk with performance spaces like Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre. I’ll just call this a challenge completed because yes, I did sit through the whole performance despite the weather.

But on to the show: Ragtime (based on E L Doctorow’s novel from 1975). This musical is all about life in Amerika at the beginning of the 20th century focusing on three different groups. There’s an upper-middle class family, a Jewish immigrant and his daughter and a black musician and his girlfriend. The lives of these people intertwine as they deal with issues such as immigration, politics, racism and social challenges of the time. The story is quite complicated but really interesting and well told. In case you want to take a closer look at it I recommend you read through the plot summary here: http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/ragtime/summary.html

This production has quite a modern feel to it with the big banner of President Obama in the background of the stage. I’m not too convinced by the set I have to admit. It looks a lot like a random garbage dump and reminds me of a set one would use for Cats. There’s a piano on one side of the stage where the house of Mother and her family is set and various scenes take place on a slight elevation on the left side of the stage. I know a set doesn’t have to be detailed or naturalistic but I just didn’t see the point in letting the characters walk around in a dump. That might be just my lack of understanding for a new and modern approach to this show though.

The cast is the real stand out in this production (with few exceptions). First of all there is the wonderful Rosalie Craig as Mother. She is without a doubt the star of the show and brings such a warmth to her character that is it impossible not to be impressed by her performance. Plus her voice is nothing but beautiful and suits the songs perfectly. Rolan Bell plays Coalhouse Walker (father of Sarah’s child and leader of the black group). He seems to struggle with the songs now and then and in my opinion his portrayal of the character is slightly too angry and imature which makes it hard to be on his side no matter what injustice he experiences.
Claudia Kariuki on the other hand brings a tear to the audience’s eye with her moving portrayal of Sarah, the black woman who first abandons her newborn child and is then invited to stay with Mother and her family.
John Marquez plays Tateh, the Jewish immigrant who comes to America with his little daughter in search for a better life, with a twinkle in the eye while never losing sight of the struggle the character goes through.
David Birrell gives a fabulous performance as Father and manages to give the audience a great insight into the inner turmoil of the character. His singing is spot on and I particularly enjoyed seeing him and Rosalie act together.
Both Harry Hepple and Jo Servi do a good job as Brother and Grandfather. I would have loved to hear Harry sing more as I loved his voice when I saw him in Pippin at the Menier Chocolate Factory.
I would like to give a special mention to Stephane Anelli (Harry Houdini) who never fails to make me smile with his amazing dancing and his great facial expressions (which can be hilarious if the part allows a funny interpretation). Special kudos for dancing like this on a wet and slippery stage and for performing those Houdini tricks (or rather stunts!) in the rain.

My one major criticism regarding the casting is the mixing up of gender and race. I have nothing against colour-blind casting, don’t get me wrong! But having a black guy play the white grandfather and a woman the male Booker T Washington just makes this already quite complicated piece even harder to understand. If Ragtime was a well-known musical it probably wouldn’t matter but most visitors will most likely never have seen the show and the different storylines are difficult enough to follow without adding cross-race and cross-gender casting.

As the title of the show suggests the score is very much influenced by the ragtime era so it has a jazzy and partly gospel feel to it and makes good use of the piano. The title song “Ragtime” is definitely a catchy tune and big ensemble numbers like “Till we reach that day” are quite spectacular to listen to. I probably wouldn’t listen to a lot of the songs at home but I really enjoyed them in context with the story.

Ragtime is certainly not an easy musical and I highly doubt it will please theatregoers that are focused on feel-good shows and who want to spent a relaxing evening at the theatre without having to think too hard (and there’s nothing wrong with that, I do it as well to get away from the busy and hectic everyday life now and then). However, if you want to see a show that intertwines history and fiction to tell a story of personal drama, change and everyday problems of people in America in the early 20th century this is the piece for you. This production is by no means perfect but the stellar cast alone is worth braving the British “summer” and spending an evening at the Open Air Theatre.

Ragtime is showing at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre until September 8th. For more info and to book tickets go to http://www.openairtheatre.com/production/ragtime-the-musical.