Nevertheless, set designer takis and director Hannah Chissick make vibrant use of the space at the Southwark Playhouse, where a bright-lit gold stage forms the backdrop for the performances, which jut out in-the-round. The immersive staging is for the story's sake: we're at the freak show, and the stars are Daisy and Violet Hilton, two conjoined twins that perform tacky routines and sing. The musical (based on a true story) follows the girls as they leave the freak show behind, and strike success in Vaudeville shows, and in the cinema, all the while wondering what it might be like to have private lives.
There's a relatively slow start. The ensemble of freaks aren't nearly as ghoulish as we'd like them to be, and this early lag is supported by Krieger's compositions, which in the first half fizz and start but never fully get going. But don't lose faith - by the interval strong numbers start permeating and the second half is punctuated by 'Who Will Love Me As I Am?', 'One Plus One Equals Three' and sassy change of gear, 'Leave Me Alone'.
It's a brilliantly odd script by Bill Russell (the musical author behind this hit, first performed in 1997), who took a chance staging a musical about Siamese twins. The performance needs two strong leads - and while there is a good base of supporting characters that sustain interest - Russell really wants you to look no further than Dearman and Pulford, the show's killer investments, who wear the subtle nuances of Siamese twins like they were their own; brilliantly conveying the blistering agony of being conjoined in big song, clever acting and comic skits.
Daisy and Violet wear each other with a heavy sense of responsibility, and ultimately the play kicks a moral punch, with frayed edges and none of the fairy tale stuff. Those out for a helluva good time - this isn't one to stand and clap at the end of, but the singing and dancing in the second half ramps up tenfold, so you'll not be dissappointed either.
|What||Side Show review, Southwark Playhouse|
77-85 Newington Causeway, London, SE1 6BD | MAP
|Nearest tube||Elephant & Castle (underground)|
21 Oct 16 – 03 Dec 16, 7:30 PM – 10:00 PM
|Price||£14 - £25|
|Website||Click here to book via Southwark Playhouse|