Review: The Thing About Men, Landor ***

The Landor has always demonstrated a commitment to superlative casting, direction and shows-on-a-shoestring which has built their enviable reputation and garnered them a host of awards.

Latest offering The Thing About Men plays to those strengths – utilising some of the most outstandingly talented performers and creatives working on the fringe; designer Martin Thomas, lighting designer Howard Hudson, director Andrew Keates, witty choreography from Cressida Carré and a top class band under the direction of Joanna Cichonska.  The Thing About Men, looks gorgeous, sounds gorgeous and is gorgeously performed.  In those respects, The Landor has scored another triumph.

It is a shame then, that the musical itself is such a peculiar piece of work.  The tunes are largely pedestrian and unmemorable, and the three protagonists are such unlikeable pieces of work; cheating on each other, falling in and out of love on a whim, and changing their personalities in the blink of an eye, that it is difficult to care about what happens to any of them.

Thankfully, the excellence of the production outweighs the flaws of the piece. Keates directs with panache and flair. He bullies the pace along relentlessly, maximising the considerable laughs along the way, while allowing the piece to breathe in the more indulgent moments.

The Landor have given us that rare treat, a production richly flowing with so much talent

Peter Gerald manages, somehow, to make the central figure of Tom Ambrose a not wholly unlikeable protagonist, while Kate Graham as the vascillating wife, Lucy, brings dignity and pathos to a thankless role.  John Addison as Sebastian, although too young to be Tom’s peer, is bang on with the charm and provides a heart-stopping moment of musical beauty in the duet Take Me Into You.

But as the three main characters cheat and scheme, the only people to root for are the supporting characters – all twenty-two of them.  Here they are all played with verve and panache by Lucyelle Cliffe and Steven Webb.  Shamelessly stealing every scene and providing most of the comedy, Keates wisely guides them to a restrained performance even in their most caricatured appearances.

A terrific production can’t save the show, but Jimmy Roberts’ fairly bland score and Joe DiPietro’s gossamer plot notwithstanding, The Thing About Men is worth a look.  The Landor have given us that rare treat, a production richly flowing with so much talent that it transcends the source material.

*** (3 stars)
Runs until 9th June
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