Saturday 26 May 2012

Show Off - Review

Waterloo East Theatre, London

March 19 2012

This review was originally written for The Public Reviews

Show Off is an innovative concept from the emerging theatrical dynamo that is Jack Shalloo. With an impressive string of acting credits to his name, and his solo album released last year, Shalloo has now turned impresario, mounting this 80 minute one-act showcase, comprising five play extracts from different writers and a glimpse of his own forthcoming musical London Time.

Worthy of mention was Next by Duncan MacInnes, a fast-paced irreverent observation of young actors eking out a living. Innocent, by the same writer, tackling the gritty issue of murder and presumed guilt, stumbled a little and was probably hindered by its allocated, but unforgiving, ten minute slot.

The evening’s penultimate performance, Reconciled by David Proud, was excellent. The play tackled death, incest and an ultimately murderous jealousy borne of sibling rivalry, with insight and a chilling sensitivity. Vanessa Carr gave a tour de force performance as a daughter abused by her now dead father, but jealous of her profoundly deaf sister who had been spared the abuse because of her disability.

The final turn was a 4 song extract from London Time, a musical drawn from Shalloo’s album London Soul. Shalloo directed this, ably assisted by his co-composer Spesh Maloney and choreographer Adam Murray. The book of the musical is being developed by James Muller, whose play Grace, had been performed earlier in the evening. The show displays immense promise and Shalloo’s songs are undoubtedly strong and often witty. The storyline though is currently too shallow, and as with his play, Muller needs to check his writing for credibility.

Musically, some of the numbers, particularly Dad Song, made the transition from CD to stage brilliantly and truly benefited from an ensemble treatment. Shalloo however is a tough act to follow and Chris Carswell as Matt, the story’s protagonist, lacked the cheeky flair that the writer had breathed into the original solo recordings. Katie Bernstein’s performance as Matt’s (authentically Mancunian) out of town love interest, who tires of his boorish City Boy lifestyle was another of the evening’s highlights.

Whilst some of the night’s material was 3 star, other parts were considerably better and suggest several good things to look out for in the future. And what was undoubtedly 5 star was Shalloo’s vision in putting the show together: he’s clearly a shrewd young man. When the next Show Off comes around, try not to miss it.

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