Tag Archives: Luke Bateman

“The Fabulist Fox Sister” from the Southwark Playhouse

The life of Kate Fox, the 19th-century “mother of all mediums”, makes a rich subject matter for this very funny monologue with music. Writer and performer Michael Conley imagines Fox’s final audience as she reveals her seances were really just theatre all along.

Always brash, Conley’s version of Fox as a straight-talking New Yorker is liberated by being at the end of her long career. It’s a simple device used effectively to give us a lot of history as well as an air of recklessness that adds a touch of the unexpected. When Kate proclaims,

“Fuck it, I’m retiring”

It means you’re never quite sure what will be revealed next.

Fox’s life, “famous before famous meant disposable”, was remarkable. And, along with playful period detail, the twisted justification for exploiting “rich guys with dead kids” provides some weight to the show that director Adam Lenson does well to highlight. Still, it’s really Conley’s depiction of Fox that adds the spirit to this spiritualist.

Conley’s script is full of good jokes. Fox’s mother being so stupid she couldn’t understand buttons really tickled me. Along with sibling rivalry (hence the title) and Kate’s love of one particular spirit – Jim Beam – word play, repetition and dead pan asides are all expertly delivered. Even Kate’s deliberately bad jokes get laughs: that’s when you know Conley has great comic skills.

The Fabulist Fox Sister is aided by jolly, very catchy tunes from Luke Bateman, who has a clever ear for using period touches. The songs are consistently strong, only once disappointing when a serious tone is attempted. In every other case the music adds considerably to amusement.

“believe in something”

Conley makes Fox funny but more than a figure of fun. An enormous ego, totally devoid of sensitivity toward others, which should make her revolting means her presence fills the stage. That Kate and her sisters sometimes believed their own lies adds a melancholy touch to the show. But there’s a whimsy to both script and music that works superbly. Conley makes you believe that Fox could have pulled off her incredible career. If nothing else, you end up believing in her. And having a lot of fun along the way.

Until 6 December 2020

www.ffsmusical.com

Photos by Jane Hobson

“H.R.Haitch” at the Union Theatre

This ridiculously silly new musical presents an alternative history for London in 2012 while at the same time taking a dig at present day problems. Crammed with jokes and a generous spirit, it is a great deal of fun.

There’s a catalogue of fears and wish-fulfilment: a Populist political party, formed only six months before the election, has promised a referendum on the monarchy – a Rexit – while a secret prince’s identity and mixed-race fiancée are about to be revealed to the public. A lot of crazy stuff… that’s not entirely crazy: writer and lyricist Maz Evans revels in all the potential parallels and absurdities.

There are too many jokes based on hindsight: recurring gags about the Olympics and Uber try too hard. But enough laughs land and it’s clear that, as the run beds down, the piece will get funnier. It’s great that there’s so much going – an imagined but recognisable royal group, including machinations for the throne, and a salt-of-the-earth family whose pub is in danger from gentrification – but director Daniel Winder needs to escalate the pace for a true farce. It’s a shame so much exposition (and time wasted) comes from fake news reports played on the pub TV. So the piece is far from polished to perfection. Luke Bateman’s music is overwhelmed by Evans’ imagination and the staging has ambitions beyond the cast. But the show is sound and has some characters that rightly rule over it.

Doubling roles as the family who run the Dog and Duck and the far more dysfunctional one that runs the country, Christopher Lyne, Andrea Miller and Prince Plockey acquit themselves well, despite some tentative moments. Emily Jane Kerr is consistently strong as the villainous Princess Victoria. But the crown jewels of the show are the Prince who has been slumming it and his modern-day Eliza Doolittle, born in Dagenham but called Chelsea. Here’s a sweet love affair for winning characters. Christian James makes his nice but dim heir to the throne truly likeable. Tori Allen-Martin’s working-class heroine sounds and looks great and is simply adorable, with a laugh so infectious it’s easy to believe this ‘pleb’ would win a plebiscite. Their love affair is aided by Bateman’s music and provides heart for the show, making this crazy fantasia deserve your vote.

Until 2 June 2018

www.uniontheatre.biz

Photo by Nick Rutter