Tag Archives: Clarke Peters

“Five Guys Named Moe” at the Marble Arch Theatre

A hit musical that ran for four years in the West End and transferred to Broadway, this revival boasts its own venue – a spiegeltent courtesy of Underbelly Productions. The pop-up feel is fun but doesn’t really evoke the New Orleans setting. And while the auditorium adds to the sense of an event, the show’s creator and director Clarke Peters uses it clumsily: a racetrack style stage, complete with a walkalator, is little used and creates a sense of distance for most of the audience. The lack of intimacy is a shame, given the terrific performances here.

A quintet of talented singers and dancers perform as the titular characters: they are all consummate showmen, sounding great with impressive moves. Ian Carlyle takes the lead in terms of sheer charisma, while Idriss Kargbo, arguably, has the best voice. Along with Emile Ruddock, Horace Oliver and Dex Lee, this is a team drilled to perfection – yet it makes the party atmosphere the show aims for feel natural. With little help from the script, the actors establish an otherworldly presence – their magical appearance is to impart wisdom on to a drunk with relationship problems called Nomax. This is a tricky role for Edward Baruwa (for too much of the piece he has little to do but stumble around), highlighting the weak story. Nomax’s problems are a slim scaffold for a revue show that in itself is excellent.

Peters’ musical knowledge, attested by his shows on Radio 4, is the overriding talent here; his passion and interest drive the musical, curating a selection of songs not to be missed. The numbers are mostly by Louis Jordan, grandfather of rock & roll and a chief architect of rhythm & blues. The entertaining lyrics are both heartfelt and humorous. The music combines adventurous experimentation with a slick confidence and Jordan’s massive influence makes listening fascinating. Many might be tempted to ignore Five Guys Named Moe as a jukebox musical, and its problems are familiar ones for the genre. But the soundtrack is inspirational, the pacing perfect and the performances excellent.

Until 24 March 2018

www.fiveguysmusical.com

Photo by Helen Maybanks

“Race” at Hampstead Theatre

In Race, which opened last night at the Hampstead Theatre, playwright David Mamet uses the legal system as a prism through which to examine racism in America. Race centres on the case of a white man accused of raping a black woman. It’s a hard-hitting, foul-mouthed, hilarious affair with the most serious of themes.

This is a huge coup for Hampstead; artistic director Edward Hall is justifiably pleased to give the show its UK premiere. Any work by Mamet is an important event for contemporary theatre writing, and in the must-see category by virtue of his name alone.

And it’s also characteristic Mamet: brilliantly contentious, perversely confrontational, and deliberately provocative. The play is about the lies we tell each other and ourselves about race, set in a legal world whose dialectic consists solely of falsehoods.

The law often makes great theatre; here the legal team of Lawton and Brown, played expertly by Jasper Britton and Clarke Peters, are more than open to a connection with “pageantry”. Overblown certainly, you might pray they are a parody, but their bluntness – constantly mercenary and misanthropic – is a technique to tackle taboos and get howls of laughter.

The key to the play is a new addition to the law firm, Susan, an honours student whose agenda gives rise to the most testing moral questions. Nina Toussaint-White is superb in the role, revealing that in razor-sharp competitions with her elder colleagues her character isn’t at the same professional level. And Toussaint-White conveys a deep pain behind her character’s sleek façade, injecting much-needed humanity into the play.

Mamet’s cynicism is such it occasionally beggars belief. Plot points designed to make us question Susan’s character are clumsy. There’s also the issue for London audiences that, understandably, the focus is very specifically on American society. But these are caveats. Race is never less than thrilling and this production makes a trip to Hampstead essential.

Until 29 June 2013

www.hampsteadtheatre.com

Photo by Alaistair Muir

Written 30 May 2013 for The London Magazine