Skip to main content

Miss Saigon

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh

Four stars

There are two devastating moments in this Cameron Mackintosh-produced touring revival of composer Claude-Michel Schonberg and lyricist Alain Boublil’s Madame Butterfly inspired musical epic that charts the human fallout of the Vietnam War. Three if you count the tellingly unhappy ending. The first comes at the start of the second act, with the use of film footage of Vietnamese street children conceived by American fathers. Accompanied onstage by a group of the play’s statesman-like ex-servicemen singing their hearts out to assuage their guilt, the scene has a similar power to the sort of overblown 1980s charity record it resembles.

The second moment comes when Kim, the young Vietnamese woman who fell for brooding GI Chris three years before, bearing their son in his absence, meets Chris’ American wife, Ellen. Touchingly played by Sooha Kim and Zoe Doano, for a few minutes they are the only two people onstage. It’s a rare moment of intimacy among the busy streams of khaki-clad soldiers and scantily-dressed female employees of the glitzy Saigon brothel run by the big-talking sleaze-ball known only as The Engineer. It is here that Kim and Chris’ fate is sealed in a way that reflects the real-life experience of thousands.

Director Laurence Connor’s surprisingly bombast-free production serves up a fluid staging of a grown-up musical that captures America’s uneasy relationship with Vietnam. Magnificently performed and staged as it is, it is riddled with similar contradictions. Both Chris and Kim are too good to be true. As played by Ashley Gilmour, he’s deep as well as macho, literally a white knight saving the innocent princess from Red Concepcion’s evil Engineer. Even though none of the male characters are remotely likeable, the result remains an astonishing depiction of an unnecessary mess that still leaves its tragic mark.

The Herald, January 22nd 2018


ends


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Honourable K.W. Harman: Ltd Ink Corporation

31 Bath Road, Leith Docks, March 17th-20th

In a monumental shipping container down by Leith Docks, a Sex Pistols tribute band is playing Anarchy in the U.K.. on a stage set up in the middle of the room. Either side, various constructions have been built in such a way so viewers can window shop as they promenade from one end of the room to the next, with the holy grail of a bar at either end.

Inbetween, there’s a confession booth and a mock-up of a private detective’s office with assorted documentation of real-life surveillance pinned to the walls. Two people seem to be having a conversation in public as if they're on a chat show. An assault course of smashed windows are perched on the floor like collateral damage of post-chucking out time target practice. A display of distinctively lettered signs originally created by a homeless man in search of a bed for the night are clumped together on placards that seem to be marking out territory or else finding comfort in being together. Opp…

The Maids

Dundee Rep

Two sisters sit in glass cases either side of the stage at the start of Eve Jamieson's production of Jean Genet's nasty little study of warped aspiration and abuse of power. Bathed in red light, the women look like artefacts in some cheap thrill waxworks horror-show, or else exhibits in a human zoo. Either way, they are both trapped, immortalised in a freak-show possibly of their own making.

Once the sisters come to life and drape themselves in the sumptuous bedroom of their absent mistress, they raid her bulging wardrobe to try on otherwise untouchable glad-rags and jewellery. As they do, the grotesque parody of the high-life they aspire to turns uglier by the second. When the Mistress returns, as played with daring abandon by Emily Winter as a glamour-chasing narcissist who gets her kicks from drooling over the criminal classes, you can't really blame the sisters for their fantasy of killing her.

Slabs of sound slice the air to punctuate each scene of Mart…

Nomanslanding

Tramway, Glasgow until July 2nd
Four stars

In the dead of night, the audience are split in two and led under-cover into lamp-lit tented structures. Inside, what look like peasant women on the run lead us down a ramp and into a large circular pod. It feels part cathedral, part space-ship, and to come blinking into the light of such a fantastical structure after stumbling in the dark disorientates and overwhelms. Sat around the pod as if awaiting prayers to begin, we watch as performers Nerea Bello and Judith Williams incant mournfully on either side of the room. Their keening chorales embark on a voyage of their own, twisting around each other by way of the international language of singing. As if in sympathy, the walls wail and whisper, before starting to move as those on either side of the pod are left stranded, a gulf between them.

This international co-commission between Glasgow Life and the Merchant City Festival, Sydney Harbour Foreshaw Authority in Australia and Urbane Kienste …