- July 9, 2019
As a young teenager I clearly remember standing in the school playground listening to the soundtrack of a new musical and being blown away. At that point I was probably unaware of Hair being a stage show, I just knew that the songs were incredible. Last night at the Theatre Royal Brighton I was reminded of just that and of the impact that it had back in the late 1960s, not only on me but on the world of theatre.
Hair was THE anti-war rock musical, a psychedelic protest in song against a world going bad, it all sounds too familiar doesn’t it, and for a show celebrating a 50th anniversary it was heartening to see that it can be viewed not just as a period piece but as relevant a piece of theatre as ever.
The songs of course have become timeless standards but to make it work in today’s world they have to be delivered with power and with class. Last night this remarkable ensemble did just that. And when I say ensemble I have never meant it more. From set, costume and lights, through choreography and direction to the band and finally that tightly drilled cast, each as important as the next. When it comes to sharing the limelight I have seldom seen it done better. Of course there are solos, lots of them, and not one was delivered with less than 200% conviction. There was emotion too, drug fuelled joy balanced by terrible come-downs and doubt.
Perhaps unsurprisingly the core of the story is held by a male character, Claude, conflicted and fragile, and Paul Wilkins is magnificent as the all American hero/anti-hero. Jake Quickenden storms the stage as the arrogantly charismatic Berger, leader of the tribe, with a gravity defying physicality. Marcus Collins plays Hud and proves that there is so much more to him than just that stunning voice, comedy, drama, characterisations…
As for the girls, well there is not a wafer of space between them, from rock power, soul and pop to soaring operatic heights, this is a cast sharing the stage with dynamism. From the very first bars, my foot was tapping, it was all I could do not to join in, to get up and dance. I wanted to be up there with them!
Director Max Reynolds has done a superb job in recreating this classic with respect for period but with bang on relevance. Not just a history lesson but a timely reminder. The stars given below hardly reflect the number of stars on the stage last night!
Theatre Royal Brighton