Review: Curtains, Landor ✭✭✭✭

Robert McWhir’s charming revival of Curtains at the Landor transports its audience into the backstage dramatics of a 1959 musical. When the shows ostracized and untalented leading lady is murdered on the opening night the undeniably talented cast and crew seem a little too relieved. Lieutenant Frank Cioffi is a musical fanatic in his element, staging a lock-in to solve the murder, whilst simultaneously excitedly re-staging the flailing musical Robin Hood.

The core of the text describes a love and a passion for the stage and the theatre. These values are embedded into this production through the dynamic ensemble, whose jubilation and excitement washes over the audience in its entirety. Jeremy Legat as the detective is particularly adorable, offering an emotive and vulnerable performance likened to a lovesick teenager in the presence of their idol. Bryan Kennedy also gives a stand-out performance as the hilariously self-indulgent director who skilfully interrupts scenes with absurd reactions and outbursts throughout.

Martin Thomas’ theatricalised setting of pulleys, ropes, and a half proscenium offers a rehearsal space, a stage, and a backstage area in one. Thomas’ delicate design supports and guides the performers as they move deftly between the metatextuality of the show-within-a-show. McWhir’s staging is purposeful and energised, expertly accompanied by Robbie O’Reilly’s stylish and sharp choreography. Michael Webborn’s musical direction lovingly adds an additional layer of humour and endearment to the show, expertly treading between the lines of performer and accompaniment.

This high-spirited intimate production could brighten the darkest of days with its fearless enthusiasm

Whilst the narrative is confined to a theatre in 1959, and the production to the intimate space of the Landor theatre, the delivery and performances shine beyond arbitrary restrictions into an enjoyable realm of their own. This particular murder investigation is an ironic mockery of creating a show and the pressures and stereotypes of the industry.

The audience is awestricken in close-proximity to the infectious excitement of the ensemble throughout the performance at the Landor. This high-spirited intimate production could brighten the darkest of days with its fearless enthusiasm. As the show concludes the ensemble repeats a reprised version of A Tough Act to Follow; with this company’s tireless energy and emphatic performances, this sentimenet seems appropriately apt.  No doubt, however, the enterprising Landor will rise to the challenge.  Laurels? Resting?  Not in Clapham.

**** (4 stars)
Runs until 1st September
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