Sunday, 19 April 2015

Miss Saigon (play)

When the two main characters have fallen in love in the first 15 minutes of a musical, you know it’s only going to go emotionally downhill from there.  

I went into Miss Saigon knowing two things: it was about an American soldier who fell in love with a Vietnamese girl during the Vietnam war, and that it had an original run on the West End 25 years ago. After the show I found out another fact that explained a lot; Schönberg and Boublil created it, the same two men who gave us the barrel-of-laughs musical that is Les Misérables.

Quick warning, this is not a musical you want to see with your parents. Unless you are comfortable watching with your parents women in their underwear dance in a brothel, which you may be.

As with Les Mis, Miss Saigon is sung-through, unrelenting in giving us teary power ballads and dance numbers. But unlike Les Mis; hell, unlike most good musicals, Miss Saigon lacked any standout tracks, which is odd for a musical where the music doesn’t stop. There was nothing that I was humming for days after.

But what it lacked in musical panache, it made up with excellent story telling. Miss Saigon took you on a journey with Kim, the young Vietnamese prostitute, and her doomed love with Chris, the American GI. Eva Noblezada played Kim, giving an astonishingly moving performance from someone who has never had a professional theatre role before. Another stand-out performance was Jon Jon Briones as the Engineer, who’s mix of sleaze and humour never stopped to entertain.

The staging took you into the depths of Saigon, from the seedy Dreamland Club, to the infamous helicopter scene outside the American Embassy, intersected with trips to America and Thailand. It was the little touches that really impacted the underlying serious tone of the musical. The point where Saigon transitioned to Ho Chi Minh was marked with a militaristic dance in front of a giant golden face of Ho Chi Minh, only to be replaced later in the play with a gaping face of the Statue of Liberty while the Engineer dances in front of it singing about the American Dream. We are left wondering if the Engineer is left yearning for an ideal of a place that is a reflection of the one he left behind.

Miss Saigon is full of morally questionable characters. We are tricked into liking those who have committed crimes, disliking those who have done nothing wrong. In the world of war, Miss Saigon never fails to remind us there are no victors.

Rating: 8/10

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Review: The Leaders' Debate

It wasn’t David Cameron’s visit to the Queen a couple of days ago that signified the beginning of the campaigning period, it was tonight. And did we get some interesting outcomes.

The SNP shot out off nowhere like an AID’s-scapegoating comment out of Nigel Farage’s mouth (yeah, that happened). Nicola Sturgeon was a breath of fresh air backing up her opinions on everything from immigration to education. The issue of the debate was that despite the range of policies on offer, most people (*cough* Nigel Farage especially *cough*) failed to consistently give sound reasoning on why their policies would 1) be best, and 2) be implemented.

Which is why Green’s Aussie Natalie Bennett fell down. As much as she’s the liberals' sweetheart, giving us a lot of ideas (most of which are pretty nice and true), the Green’s have yet to prove how any of their policies would, well… work. It follows Bennett’s previous disaster on LBC, and although she pulled herself back, the lack of clarity of where the Green’s would get the money from, bar taxing the rich, means they have a long way to go.

Speaking of the rich, let’s look at their poster boy, and current PM, David Cameron. Probably the best speaker in the room, Cameron exudes the authority that he should be in charge, unlike his slightly hapless-looking counterpart, Ed Milliband. Cameron stuck to his guns, no doubt pleasing the Tory supporters, and his echoing words of that Britain needs a stronger economy played through the debate.  Milliband did well, but shockingly neither the PM or Leader of the Opposition gave us anything as interesting as the anti-establishment parties, or enough to out-perform the other, meaning the polls are going to be as tight as ever.

Oh yeah, Nick Clegg. Sadly slightly forgettable, but I don’t know if I’m biased as a 21-year-old-student paying three times the amount of debt of someone a year older than her. Okay, bias aside, Clegg wasn’t bad. But he needed to be better than okay. The problem is, Clegg is never going to rip himself away from the fact that he’s been supporting a right-wing government, so any attempts to move back to the liberal centre-left where the party belongs is not going to sit well with voters. Not good enough, deputy PM. Sadly, I'm going to group Wood in here too, although she did make a good impression on Twitter, and hopefully on Wales, Plaid Cymru was useful to highlight the plight of Wales, but failed to live up to her Scottish counterpart.

As for Farage, I’m not going to give him any more airtime than he deserves.