Review: Striking 12 – Waterloo East ***

Striking 12 is one of those little curios that one practically expects to discover underneath a railway arch in Waterloo. Part concert, part musical, part concept recording, Striking 12 is a modern re-imagining of Hans Christian Anderson’s Little Match Girl.

It’s a simple fable; boy meets girl when she knocks on his door to sell light bulbs which, possibly, help with SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder, boy spends New Year’s Eve reading Hans Christian Anderson and becomes a little too engrossed in the story, boy goes out into the snowy night of London to find a little match girl so he can save her from freezing to death, boy meets girl selling light bulbs which promise, possibly, to help with SAD, and they live happily ever after – or at least we hope they might.

The problem is, it’s a little too concept recording, and a little too concert, and not quite enough musical.

Waterloo East deserves to be lauded for bringing new musical work to London

The talented cast of five tease the story along amiably, Simon Bailey and an outstanding Natasha J Barnes play the boy and girl, while Roger Woods, John Bannister and Rebecca Bainbridge provide not only all the other characters, but the music too, and there is genuine warmth and humour in this piece. However, the over-amplification of the band means many of the lyrics are lost, which is annoying and unnecessary.

Despite the anglicisation of the lyrics and script it still feels American. Striking 12 lacks theatricality; it would work better as a recording, or on a small festival stage than it does in the formal confines of an end-on theatre.   The songs are, for the most part a pleasing hodge-podge of musical styles, but they are mainly solos with backing vocals rather than musical theatre numbers, and some of them feel drafted in to make up time or give a cast member a solo.

However, Waterloo East deserves to be lauded for bringing new musical work to London and there is enough charm and charisma from this small cast to bring a little festive cheer to Waterloo.

*** (3stars)
Runs until 2nd January 2011
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