Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Sweet Smell of Success - review

Written by: Jessica Gardner (@JessyGardner)

Arcola Theatre, London

Success can not only be smelt in this show, but seen, heard, and felt too. As soon as you enter the brick walled auditorium of the Arcola, you realise that you are not in a theatre at all but in an intimate jazz bar in the 1950s. The set, although extremely minimalist offers the perfect hints to era and location which is also supported by the Arcola’s set up. With the use four stage entrances that surround the audience and the intimate staging, you are immediately drawn into the performance with great ease. With a few tables with 50’s lamps elegantly set in the centre it was really as if you were in the same bar as the whole cast.

The show opens with the band abruptly striking up whilst the house lights are still up, causing the whole audience to jump out of their seats. It was worth it as what was about to unfold was certainly worth sitting up for. We are eaves dropping in on JJ Hunsecker’s office as he talks with his secretary; the receptionist’s accent floated in and out of the regional New York accent and became rather distracting but the hilarious and unexpected entrance of the brilliant ensemble soon soothed this teething problem. Through the great use of technical staging the ensemble appear through a letter box window at the back of the stage, being raised by a lift of some sorts. All dressed in Mackintoshes looking very serious, we become aware that these are the voices of the people desperate to get into JJ Hunsecker’s world, as if peering in through his office window.

Initially I was not JJ Hunsecker’s biggest fan, perhaps this was intentional; but as the show progressed I felt myself being drawn further and further into his character and world by his charm and business prowess, just like the 16 million readers of his column. David Bamber’s portrayal of the character was spot on and an outstanding performance.

The scene and costume changes, movements from speech to song were all as notably slick as the ensemble cast, who wowed with their talent and polished performances. Clearly all holding their own as a body against the lead roles, there were a couple of standout performances in the ensemble: Claire Doyle and Tosh Wanogho-Maud. Both were exceptional and the total embodiment of the show with every movement and note and head turn: slick, sexy and seductive.

You are taken on the journey with the cast rather than being left outside in the cold, allowing for the true warmth, desire, passion and hate to really touch you. The show brings real depth to such a shallow world that it portrays. Thanks to the perfect setting, direction and choreography and talented cast, this highly polished and intimate performance easily stands up against West End productions and absolutely reeks of success. 

This production runs until 22 December 2012. 

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Anonymous said...

Went to see the show and really enjoted it. It was just like I expected from the review.

Jukie K said...

Went to see it amd glad I did.