Hair - The Musical

Mon 7th – Sat 12th April 2014

reviews

Natasha McGregor

at 10:55 on 10th Apr 2014

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Arriving at the Redgrave we were confronted with hippies wandering around, sharing flowers and hugs with anyone who would stand still long enough. The atmosphere was relaxed and fun and felt like a sit in - despite the fact we were all standing. The tone was set. Walking into the auditorium the cast were relaxing on stage and wandering amongst the seats. We were welcomed and felt part of their group.

The opening number ‘Aquarius’ hit with real power. Eliza Wynne-Hughes’ voice was tender and the cast moved perfectly together. The songs got better throughout, building in power and passion. The first act was a blend of love, protest, sex and nudity. This show is not for the faint-hearted!

The set was mostly very simple, a scaffold at the back giving some added height to some scenes. At times it felt a little bit like they were filling the stage unnecessarily but the transitions were smooth. One change involved two stage hands entering to remove a table, but they smiled in their wigs and the audience laughed it off.

The costumes looked wonderful. With the return of seventies fashion much of it looked like something that could be found on the high street but the real period pieces - fur lined coats, blue coloured sunglasses - gave a great sense of time. The floaty skirts and open waistcoats also worked wonderfully with the dance moves, billowing and sweeping with the movements.

Michael Griffiths as Claude and Ian “Cookie” Brooks as Berger not only had great stage presence but great camaraderie as well. Their complex three-way relationship with Sheila (played by Emma Watkins) had a realness and tenderness that was only enhanced by their songs and scenes together. One of the highlights of the cast was Charlie Cartwright’s sweet and naive Jeanie, and her monologue about becoming a mother was very touching.

The scenery was enhanced by two screens, used primarily in the second act, upon which were projected images not only of the Vietnam War but of important figures from the ‘60s - Martin Luther King, Martin X, Richard Nixon. During these moments the staging was simple, and the songs had so much more power. In particular 3-5-0-0, performed by the entire ensemble, was almost perfectly still, giving more power to the violence of the words.

The ending was perfectly executed. Simple and powerful, they chose to close on one of the defining images of the flower power movement - one girl, standing before a soldier, placing a flower in his rifle.

If you get a chance to see this show you absolutely should. All of the elements combine together to make a wonderful, happy, heart wrenching production.

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