Thursday, October 26, 2006

When change comes too late

Today could be tempestuous. I am going to risk sticking my neck out in criticism of the establishment. (Okay, hardly a first, but most of the 'free' world is with me on Dubya). And this time I am not inspired by incomprehensible disdain, but rather a self confessed love and protective streak for the National Theatre. And non-theatre buffs please don't turn away now. If you live in London, bemoan the Daily Mail (a proxy for liberal thought) and can feel the faintest patterings of a cultural pulse (yes, seeing Mamma Mia does count) than the NT is often as good as theatre gets.

And the euphoria a good show provides is like a pill you love to take, but when crushed can prove hard to swallow. As such I have been reluctant to formalise an opinion on the NT's latest musical wonder-hit, Caroline, or Change, from Tony Kushner, hoping it too would somehow change. Recipient of a five-star review in the Guardian, and this week's Time Out 'Show of the Week', it is with fear in my bleeding (and blogging) heart that I stray from solidarity.

Set in Louisiana in 1963, the play's title stems from a dispute about coins between Caroline, a middle-aged black maid, and her liberal Jewish employer; but the change of the title also harkens the change in America in the year of Kennedy's assassination. Sound engaging? What if I told you that everything was sung in operatic format, including (inane) arias from people singing on behalf of dishwashers and dryers. Although unlike operas, which even in English often require super titles, every word can be understood. And in the first act this was too often the problem. But mercifully the second half was a transforming improvement, and Tonya Pinkins as Caroline made the score finally soar.

That withstanding, I still left feeling the moment for real change passed before the interval. But then again anything at the National can only ever be of relative disappointment. Book tickets here. Because when hype abounds, it is often worth the change to decide for yourself.

Running to 4 January 2007.


Anonymous Claire said...

Wow good to know. I too read the weekend 5 star reviews and thought a musical at National sounded fun. If Kushner probably not touristy etc. Will book up and report back!

2:13 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I loved 'Caroline'. I saw it at Joe Papp Public in NYC. To me it was about that sensation of history cracking open. Jews and Blacks in the South during the 1960s. Kushner is as moving with Caroline as he was with Angels in America. Londoners be grateful for the National.

2:22 pm  
Anonymous Ben said...

"The President is dead."

Ahh the joys eh CS if we could say those same words today?

Play sounds soft but intriguing.

2:36 pm  
Anonymous lighthouse shop said...

With its serious theme it hardly sounds like a musical? MAyeb it will help bring larger audiences to the National though which as you say Slicky would have to be a good result.

2:41 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Appreciate the honest but fair review. If only mainstream media could not sell out we may actually start to trust what we read in it.
I am curious to see a musical at the national but singing dishwashers?

2:54 pm  
Anonymous Henry said...

There is an amazing documentary portrait of Kushner right now in the form of a documentary by Freida Lee Mock called "Wrestling with Angels."
It is playing in NYC at the Film Forum and for any New York-based City Slicker readers is well worth a fly by. It is an early stab at Kushner's place in American theater and culture!

3:42 pm  
Anonymous badgelady said...

The National is just so much better now than it was 3 or 4 years ago. Shame on you who stay away except means more Travelex for the rest of us :-)

4:09 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tony Kushner is so much better of a writer than David Hare. If one were to compare!

4:13 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hear Dirty Dancing is rubbish

4:18 pm  
Anonymous gayinbrixton said...

Just because I like theatre doesn't mean I am a poof. Or does it?

5:34 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the art of being undecided when writinga review. a talent miss blogger. so did you like the play?

5:57 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

is this blog connected to The Guardian newspapers?

6:26 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the Daily Mail is Murdoch at its worst

6:54 pm  
Blogger ems said...

Saw this advertised when we watched the Alchemist earlier in the week (which is very good) and thought along your lines that a musical at the National must be good. Perhaps not from your comments. We may still give it a go.

ps. Anonymous - the Daily Mail isn't Murdoch's.

9:04 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent blog here. First time reader as a bit of a blog virgin truth be told. Fascinating choice of topics.

11:45 am  
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This is really radical for the NAACP! The logic certainly does exist to support their involvement and pro-stance.I am anxious to see what type of response this is going to receive.
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6:03 am  

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