The Kissing Dance – Jermyn Street Theatre to 23rd April

A charmingly produced witty tale of mistaken identity, performed in one of the hidden gems of the West End.

I do love the Jermyn Street Theatre. Tucked under an Italian restaurant on the corner of Jermyn and Regent street, surrounded by old fashioned tailors and in spitting distance from Piccadilly Circus, it is a tiny theatrical haven from the pulsing, touristy chaos above.

The intimateness of the 70 seater auditorium does a huge amount to create an involving experience of the type that is rarely celebrated in a West End famous for big name money-spinners. Here, there is none of the actor-audience apartheid enforced by a massive raised stage and a remote upper circle. The audience have to cross the boards to get to the toilet and spill onto the staging area to stretch their legs at the interval. So refreshing.

It is amazing how much can be achieved with this tiny space, and choreographer Tim Jackson has made this into a much bigger-feeling show than the space would suggest. The use of actor-musicians is pulled off with panache – a technique that can so easily go wrong has here created the impression that the accompaniment is simply incidental household music-making in the background of the unfolding comedy. Director Lotte Wakeham has also moved the action from the 18th Century to the Edwardian era, which reduces again the distance between audience and the action, increasing the relevance and connection for the viewer.

 

Based on She Stoops to Conquer, this is the professional premiere of The Kissing Dance. The music, book & lyrics (by Howard Goodall & Charles Hart) take a familiar British comedy of class, confusion and family meddling and enhance its appeal with the addition of a cheeky wit that makes this so much more than another English country-house romp. Musical highlights include ‘Nonesuch’ – surely the most entertaining way of giving directions possible – and ‘Beating the Knave,’ in which the score and slapstick choreography work together to hilarious effect as the troublemaker Tony  is given his comeuppance.

Notable performances come from the wonderful Jack Shalloo (last spotted performing at The Great British Musical), irrepressible Beverly Klein, enchanting Gina Beck, Gemma Sutton, Lauren Storer, Dylan Turner and Ian Virgo.

As ever, a great night at Jermyn Street. Why more people aren’t in love with these tiny venues I don’t know. They will never provide the same experience as a Cameron Mackintosh spectacular, but that is almost 100% of the charm. They are also proof that theatregoing need not break the bank – the £18.50 for my ticket felt far better spent than it would have been on a couple of cocktails in Soho.

Being able to see little shows like this reminds me yet again of what a wealth of talent and culture is out there for the experiencing in London. I don’t think I’ll be tiring of the big smoke any time soon.

The Kissing Dance is on at the Jermyn Street Theatre until Saturday 23rd April, Tickets are available from the box office on 020 7287 2875.

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