I was lucky enough to see the McOnie Company’s new show Drunk on its first preview night in Leicester, but as Mrs Chrisparkle spent that night in New Jersey, training American and British colleagues on the art of how not to rub each other up the wrong way, it was a case of “Dance for One”. But when she read my blog about what a great show it was, she announced that she too would like to see for herself what all the fuss was about. Thus it was that last Saturday evening we walked along the Strand and crossed that boundary into the No Man’s Land that is Fleet Street after dark, hung a right into Bride Lane, walked the wrong way around the church and eventually found the little Bridewell theatre.
It’s a neat little place, with a very welcoming bar that serves nice red wine, and I thought it was a friendly touch that a lady came round all the tables in the bar asking if we wanted to buy a programme. I had already decided that I wouldn’t need another one, as I still had my programme from Leicester, less than two weeks previously. But I can’t resist a fresh programme, so, much to the scoffing of Mrs C, I parted with my two quid; and I’m glad I did, as the new programme has much more information in it, including (what a 21st century world this is), the twitter addresses for all the cast, creative team and band. There are no reserved seats at the Bridewell; you just pile in and grab the best one you can. A word of warning; don’t do as I did, and expect the email which you have printed off as your e-ticket to magically gain you entrance to the auditorium – you have to present it to the box office first and swap it for tickets, which the door staff then take off you. Not realising that led to our losing our place in the queue with my subsequent brief but tangible annoyance that others, who were behind us, were nicking all the best seats. I shouldn’t have worried though, because the Bridewell is a neat and compact venue, and even if you are sitting at the outer edges of the rows you still get a very good view of the action.
If you’ve not seen the show before and want to know what it’s all about, may I refer you to my previous blog – just go back a couple of paragraphs and click on the link. It’s always fascinating to see a show a second time; to notice if there are any changes, maybe things you missed the first time, things that are better, or worse, than you remember. That for me is the absolute magic about live entertainment – no two performances are ever identical. And whilst I don’t think there are any significant differences, there were some aspects that I’d overlooked in my first review.
I’d forgotten the brilliant first solo dance, when Daniel Collins’ Martini first shows up, all swagger and swank, and acting as though he owns the place. Gemma Sutton’s Ice thinks she’s really landed on her feet with this hot new date, but then, isn’t it always the way, he’s actually meeting someone else…and someone else… well, Martini is a very versatile drink, after all. It’s a really funny and sophisticated routine, which tells its own mini-epic story in the space of a few minutes.
I also appreciated much more this time the scene when we are introduced to Ice’s first boyfriend. He was her Adam, and no doubt she was his Eve; but it was he who tempted her with the apple, and I guess cider is many people’s first experience with drink. It’s a beautiful scene between Miss Sutton and Simon Hardwick – fresh and innocent, cheeky and loving, and very touching. When she decides that she’s had enough of first love and needs to move on, his sense of rejection is very moving. Looking back, you wonder if she really made the right decision that day.
Anabel Kutay’s Absinthe seems sexier than ever with her studied slow pouring of her intoxicating liquid down everyone’s helplessly open mouths – there’s no doubt who’s in charge of dishing out hangovers here. The Pimms party of four toffs out on their jolly rampage is still, for me, the funniest scene; and I was very taken by Lucinda Lawrence’s paparazzi’d star Vodka, like a Russian Norma Desmond, languishing at the bar, bedecked in ermine, alluring yet aloof. The Scotch and Rum scene is sensitively and beautifully done; this love story between two American soldiers in 1943 starts with a rolled up note stuffed in a bottle, such as you might find drifting on to a desert island beach and ends with the knowledge that only one of them survived the war. The superbly tender performances of Ashley Andrews and Fela Lufadeju quite bring a lump to the throat.
Finally, I love the cheery and generous curtain call, with each cast member introducing another cast member; and the final exit from the stage, the cast hungover after 80 minutes of hedonism, helps us back into the real world too. As they slope off, from our seats on the side you hear them fantasising about getting cheesy chips on the way home, and you think, “that’s not such a bad idea”…
I was already sold on the show, but what did Mrs C think? I could tell she loved it, from the way she leaned forward throughout the whole performance, in that body language expression that betrays how involved you are with what’s on stage. We both feel that Drew McOnie has got a real winner on his hands here; with its innovative combination of theatre and dance, he’s created something really special. It’s on till March 1st at the Bridewell but surely it must have some future life afterwards? No matter what, it’s a must-see whether you love dance or drama.