Monday to Friday until 22nd July
‘The past is a different country: they do things differently there’ is the famous opening line of The Go-Between.
Based on the 1953 novel by LP Hartley, The Go Between is a coming-of age story centred in Norfolk on the brink of the First World War and now adapted into a stage musical.
We see an elderly Leo (Michael Crawford) in his attic recalling, for what you feel may be the first time, the events which occurred the summer of his 13th birthday when he spent the holidays with his friend Marcus and his aristocratic family. With Marcus’ beautiful sister set to marry for money, the presence of the dashing young farmer spells disaster for upper class tranquillity.
The singing is generally of excellent quality, and Richard Taylor’s score lends itself well to the play’s haunting subject matter. Gemma Sutton is particularly impressive – her utterly charming yet fundamentally self-interested Marion was complemented well by her clear and melodious soprano.
It is, of course a delight to see the great Michael Crawford back on the West End stage after so long an absence and, whilst his voice may no longer reach the dizzying heights of his Phantom of the Opera heyday, his presence is undeniable, particularly in the quieter moments of interaction with his younger self.
Quietly stealing the show, however, is musical director and pianist Nigel Lilley. The sole instrumentalist in this chamber-musical, he succeeds in overseeing proceedings from his vantage point behind the grand piano ,which is a constant presence at stage right, with grace and nuance.
Designer Michael Pavelka’s staging is beautiful in its simplicity, making good use of the assembled chairs and even of the ever-present piano. The scene in the tailor’s shop with its inventive use of coat hangers was particularly charming. The earthy tones of the scenery are matched in the costume to very stylish effect.
Ultimately though, The Go Between never quite gets into its stride. At times, the libretto feels a little forced – whist we envy no-one the challenge of following a film script penned by Harold Pinter, it did feel that some metaphors were pushed rather beyond breaking point.
There are moments, especially in the second half, where the tension is palpable, but the eternal presence of the elderly Leo, rooting the entire Norfolk plot line firmly in the realms of memory, somewhat lowers the stakes – it is hard for an audience to directly invest in action that we are constantly being reminded took place a generation ago.
This is undoubtedly an immensely elegant production but, despite repeated allusions to Icarus and his ill-fated flight, it never quite manages to soar.
|What||The Go-Between musical review|
|Where||Apollo Theatre, 31 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, W1D 7ES | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Piccadilly Circus (underground)|
27 May 16 – 15 Oct 16, 7:30 PM – 10:00 PM
|Website||Click here to book via Culture Whisper and See Tickets|