The Space is an arts and community centre in Westferry Road, a short journey from Canary Wharf. The space in question is a converted church of modest dimensions, a former Presbyterian mission built by TE Knightly, that brims with potential and is used for a variety of performances, from chamber music and classic plays to new writing.
The current production, Slay it With Music, is the UK premiere of an off-Broadway show. It tells the story of a faded Hollywood star, Enid Beaucoup, who lives just down the road from Gloria Swanson and shares a case of sibling rivalry to match Baby Jane’s. Enid’s sister Marcy is a daytime soap star and isn’t keen on Enid’s comeback in a slasher movie entitled Chop Chop. She fears that the film will remind the world about the sisters’ infamous love triangle with a hairdresser, their ‘paramour coiffure’, which resulted in his bloody murder.
With tongues firmly in cheek, Joseph Walsh’s cast have plenty of fun in Slay it With Music. Given that it would be almost impossible to ham it up too much they are on safe ground. Walsh is also the choreographer and ensures the proceedings are sharp as a knife.
Taking the star role, Andrea Miller is the unhinged, pearl-bedecked Enid. Every sentence becomes an exclamation and her evil laugh is as camp as one might wish for. Ellen Verenieks shows admirable comedy skills as Marcie and Andrew Hayler does especially well as the butler Zachery – as waspish as they come; his devotion to the former musical star is a trait astute musical theatre lovers might recognise in their more obsessive compadres. In a murder mystery musical who knows where such obsession will lead us?
Writer Michael Colby is certainly smart enough to supply us with a twist. Slay it With Music is a tender send-up, a hommage from a fan who knows his stuff. It teems with references – so much that Paul Katz’ music seems somewhat swamped. This is very much an evening for aficionados –potentially overwhelming if you don’t get the joke. But if you are in the know – it’s to die for.
Until 4 September 2011
Written 28 July 2011 for The London Magazine