Tuesday 23 April 2013

Sleeping Arrangements

Landor Theatre, London


Book, music & lyrics: Chris Burgess
Director: Robert McWhir

Jenny Gayner
Sleeping Arrangements is a transition of Sophie Kinsella’s novel of the same name into a new piece of musical theatre staged at that veritable genre dynamo, Clapham’s Landor Theatre. It’s a simple enough even if anodyne tale of two frustrated married couples thrown together in an Andalucian doubled booked holiday villa.  Add in the 16 year old son of one union and a gorgeous nanny from t’other to generate some adolescent Carry On capers, as well as some adult bed hopping and you have the ingredients for a passable piece of chick-lit cavorting.

Chris Burgess writes in the programme that when he first read the novel, he “couldn’t help but hear songs all over the place”. Unfortunately, it seems that sometimes these may have been other people’s songs. When Grant Neal as victim of the rat-race, pasty-faced, Philip (husband to Chloe)sings of his resentment at being just a “Nice Guy”, it sounds like a faux-Sondheim version of Kander and Ebb’s Mr Cellophane. Sam, the testosterone fuelled 16 year old wonderfully played by Adam Pettigrew has some comic moments but one can’t help but feel that Dougal Irvine nailed adolescent sexual awkwardness with so much more perception in Departure Lounge and when Liza Pulman’s Amanda (married to Hugh, keep up), legs akimbo, splendidly belts out Superwoman, she must be thinking to herself that whilst she couldn’t physically be giving any more to such an all-consuming  performance, her own lyric writing contribution to Fascinating Aida far outweighs Burgess’s efforts.

Nonetheless, this show entertains. As frustrated wife Chloe, Jenny Gayner masterfully extracts the melodrama from her lyrics and she steamily convinces as a still seductive but frustrated wife who found herself becoming a mother far too young in life. She discovers that she still holds a candle for Steven Serlin’s Hugh, a flame from many years past, also thrown into the villa booking as a consequence of the scheming machinations of an old mutual friend of theirs. When passions inevitably spill over into a stolen afternoon of lust, Serlin’s muscular naked torso (as well as his magnificent voice) will have much of the audience swooning in the Landor’s cramped aisles.  A note to Grant Neal: in the Rat Pack styled duet that he later shares with Serlin, Women Always Win Out In The End, he is vocally outclassed by the other man. Whilst Neal’s character may be a bit limp, his voice needn’t be and this needs to be stepped up into the run.

Sabrina Aloueche smoulders throughout as Jenna the at times bikini-clad provocative young nanny, lusted after by Sam whilst flirting wickedly with Philip. When Aloueche sings her voice has an electrifying unity of youth, power and pitch-perfect tone.

The show is directed by Robert McWhir, a seasoned and talented practitioner, who takes Burgess’ composition and skilfully fashions it into a watchably endearing production. David Shields' Spanish set is a delight and whilst Colin Billing’s band are four worthy musicians, Burgess’ melodies don’t give them a lot with which to make our spines tingle.

Sleeping Arrangements is simply crying out for coachloads of West End Wendies to pack the Landor during its four week residency.  The ticket price is infinitely better value than most juke box musicals to be found up West, the performances on display are at least as good (if not better) and the story is far more up to date than Cliff Richard’s Summer Holiday. Don’t forget your passport!

Runs to May 12 2013

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