If we're doing to discuss assaults on the audience, when John Barrowman was playing Billy Flynn in Chicago he managed to let his cane slip out of his grasp and it hit me squarely in the nads. I missed most of the next half hour of the show.
And then there was the time in Mamma Mia when Alex Jay threw a glowstick at me.
Perhaps I should stop standing in the middle of the front row shouting "This show sucks! Why don't you get proper jobs‽"
Tried them, yes. Good legroom, but you do look straight through and around "window blinds" style bars that protect the ends of rows. 42 is better than 43. If you are happy to miss the nearside action in particular, it is OKish. You get what you pay for in 42 at least, IMHO.
I really wanted to like this (how many posts here begin with that statement?!). But ultimately I just couldn't, despite a brilliant cast doing their very very best, beautiful set design and music that was intelligent, if a little afraid of going for full-out emotion when it really needed it.
The problem is two-fold - the subject choice and their treatment of it. The bottom line is - a woman making a map is not inherently a very dramatic subject - or, rather, not a subject that sings. So immediately they've got their work cut out. Mrs P is an interesting woman but she's just not someone that, to me at least, cries out to be immortalised in song. Therefore the writers have to work overtime figuring out how to make the story dramatic and, to be brutally honest, they don't succeed.
The first act is simply boring. You start the show with a woman leaving her husband and leaving the country where she lives to go back to the city where she grew up. You don't feel this in the telling. It all remains incredibly polite and somehow overly cute. The cringeworthy things the ensemble are asked to do - make rain by going 'pitter patter' is a good example - are at best straight out of drama school and at worst remind me of Brian Cant on Play School. Mrs P herself gives the impression that she's maybe getting over agoraphobia - certainly not changing the course of her life. Things largely continue in this vein for the best part of ninety minutes.
Act two is markedly better. There are some strong songs, including a wonderful comic number when she's taking her A-Z around bookstores attempting to get it stocked, and a very striking and original duet for her mother and father. However, the big problem for me here is the drama feels tacked on. As if realising that the central story is lacking in drama, they delve further into her family history to uncover the story of her unstable mother and overbearing father. But in no way do they tie this in to the central story. Surely when telling a story actions have to lead to consequences? You have to get that moment where you say 'ah! I see! Now I know why x did y'. At no point does this happen. She had problematic parents. She made a map book of London, encouraged by her father. Those two things are completely separate and never tied together (maybe because they simply don't tie together!). There isn't even a cursory attempt in the book to have her talk throughout about wanting to map out her life, or put things in order, or make sense of her own personal chaos, which at least would have gone some way towards tying it all together, however forced it may have seemed. The family drama in act two could have come from a completely different show.
The writers also try to cram a much too big time period into a show that already feels overlong. The second world war starts and stops in about thirty seconds. A scene is immediately followed by another that casually tells us the preceding one was years (decades?) ago.
Ultimately this leaves us with an evening that veers from dull to emotionally unsatisfying. The writers even refrain from examining the only really interesting controversy surrounding the A-Z - the disputed claim by Mrs P that she walked every street of London mapping the book. Isy Suttie admitted as much on Radio 4 last night. I came away feeling rather sorry for the cast and wondering how something so dramatically misjudged could have wound up getting on, when it's so hard for any new British musicals to actually reach the stage.
I was at Les Mis the other night when a rather tweedy looking man, who seemed to be accompanying his parents and obviously not enjoying himself, actually got out his phone and made a call right in front of me during the performance!
I know, it's just frustrating not being able to have a view on what, to me, are the more interesting productions that lie beyond the occasional star name such as Tennant. At least with Edinburgh I can guarantee to see a lot of shows each day, at Stratford you have to go more than once to be able to pick up most things.