Quick Change Review: Sunset Boulevard - At Home
It’s funny, isn’t it; how you can travel miles and miles back to your home after a period of absence and when you open the door everything just feels so comfortable and oh so familiar.
Whether it’s the gentle scent of your mum’s wash powder, or the aroma of a dish cooking in the oven, you can suddenly breathe a little easier. It could be the feel of how your bum curves to your place on the sofa just so, or how you can recognise who is walking down the stairs just from the sound of their steps.
Watching Curve’s production of Sunset Boulevard – At Home, gifted the same level of nostalgia. Unfortunately, for almost a year now it is as close to my favourite theatre as I have been able to get. Boy, had I missed it.
The award-winning Made at Curve production of the Andrew Lloyd Webber classic has been taken back and presented in a concert style, recorded and made available for live streaming from home.
Appropriately, the story is set across a New Year’s Eve in 1940s Hollywood and follows penniless screen writer, Joe Gillis (Danny Mac) in pursuit of romance but trapped by obsession. Ria Jones reprised her role from the 2017 show as star of the silent-screen, Norma Desmond. Supported by Molly Lynch as the adorably likeable Betty Schaefer, and Adam Pearce as the brilliantly domineering Max Von Mayerling, the bright-eyed cast bought the production to life with glamorous costumes and exquisite vocals.
Sunset Boulevard’s classic score is performed live by a sixteen-piece orchestra and their togetherness is velvet rich as they perform with vigour and delight throughout. A tribute to the Hollywood era, the noir cinematic score demands nothing less than full volume.
In true Curve style, director, Nikolai Foster, invited you to get up close and personal with the action. Curve is a theatre with people at its very heart and their creative approach to stylising the production made exclusively to be streamed from home hits every mark.
At the centre of the auditorium is a revolve stage that is surrounded by socially distanced seating – a stark reminder of the preparations taken in anticipation of a live audience and a reminder that we will return.
Foster’s decision to expose the tech behind the production is striking. Audiences are made acutely aware that the performance is just that. Amidst the action, we see cameras on runners and tripods, as masked crew move sound rigs and spotlights to shine on our protagonists. The direction is a beautiful tribute to the theatre industry and the relentless efforts that take place behind the scenes and are often taken for granted. Curve have bought these unsung - and unsinging - heroes to the forefront and in this instance, it is their beautifully choreographed movements that would receive the greatest applause.
Images by Marc Brenner via Curve
The cast use the empty space as their playground of exploration, they meet in the aisles, huddle beneath the seating, climb to the balconies and soar in the gangways above the stage. Visuals tinted like flickering film reels are dubbed on top to kickstart the imagination and aid with the transportation to the streets of Hollywood.
Mac makes his protagonist our narrator by breaking the fourth wall to address the audience. Sharp vocals, cool delivery and determined focus. His realistic, sincere performance and wild gaze had me entranced. Meanwhile, Jones’ Norma Desmond was a firecracker of eccentricity, often becoming hysterical in the longing lodged in the pit of her soul. Together the pair were a tour de force of emotion.
The story hit close to the bone as I sat at home aching for the return of live theatre, and desperate to replicate that feeling of being home again. This is the next best thing.
Balancing the perfect mix of romance and melancholy, Curve’s production of Sunset Boulevard is a wonderful tribute to the power of theatre. It has been made and told with love; for storytelling, for performance, for creation and for innovation. As we find new ways to dream, we still hope for the return to the place where we belong.
Curve, we will be home soon.
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