So God speaks to ya?-Aunt Moni, See What I Wanna See
What does he sound like, James Earl Jones?
It is no secret that I have an inherent problem with musical theatre that I am still struggling to overcome. By and large I find they tend to detract from more than add to a production, though there are certainly exceptions particularly with comedy like Apocalypse: The Musical. Last night marked the first UK performance of See What I Wanna See (I certainly seem to be making good on my resolution to better patronise the ADC this year as its my 3rd trip in 5 weeks). Mark S was my main reason for seeing it, and it transpired Kirsten also had a friend in the same play. Rather, it is essentially two independent plays, each preceded by a short prologue set in feudal Japan.
The first half, “R Shomon”, weaves a dark tale of rape and murder as told by each of the three people involved, and each has their own perspective on events which is — at least to them — the truth. What others saw is irrelevant as each vies for control of the situation in their retelling. The musical crescendos punctuate the story well and there are some great jazzy numbers in there. However, the drama of lovers considering death is severely undermined when in song.
By contrast the second half, Gloryday, needed the musical element because it could not stand alone on its setting in post-9/11 New York. Americans still don’t seem to understand that the events were far less shattering for the rest of the world where it was simply not new. In this light it was a bold move to attempt to sell the quirky story of a disillusioned priest’s practical joke in the aftermath to a British audience. Its light hearted style seemed better suited to the musical format but with the gravitas of its setting stripped away here it felt almost vacuous at times.
If pressed I probably preferred the first story, very clever in its use of perspectives with a more satisfying finale. The performances were all extremely good, showing developed range as each actor took on different roles in the two parts. The only major problem was inevitable with a live band — the music often swallowed the singers’ voices. Although an overpowering crescendo is fine once in a while, they should not be competing for attention because the audience need to hear what’s going on. That criticism aside, it was a good evening that kept me entertained so is certainly worth seeing if musicals are your thing. It runs until Saturday.