Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others
With the songs of Morrissey & Marr
Conceived and created by Anonymous Society
Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith
The subtitle says much about this show but could well prove desperately misleading. There is no doubt that this unusual evening's entertainment is based on the works of Morrissey and Marr but it is far from a Smiths tribute musical or a blacker We Will Rock You.
The fact that Anonymous Society's last theatre piece, confusingly entitled Anonymous Society, was based on the works of Jacques Brel is more of a giveaway.
Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others looks like a prolonged, very cool pop video with grainy images projected on a screen at the back and a highly choreographed team of singers with acting and dancing talent, playing out disjointed scenes to rearrangements of hits from the Eighties popsters.
The closest analogy available is probably Complicite's homage to Dmitri Shostakovich, The Noise of Time. Failing that, you could try thinking of an opera from a minimalist composer such as Philip Glass or John Adams.
The music is provided by hip young string quartet Eclipse, who have already made a name for themselves appearing on stage beside McFly and Lucie Silvas. They are talented and far from shy, as the whole team periodically appears amid the action to add to the effect.
The opening is straight out of James Bond, as a Shirley Bassey-type song is pounded out and a murder is committed while misogyny reigns. From there, the singers take over.
To the accompaniment of arrangements by Perrin Manzer Allen, the six performers demonstrate that they each have tremendous voices across a wide range. The gravelly Sean Kingsley gives his all, singing the blues as one might expect from somebody who has been a Blues Brother in a past life. By contrast, Garrie Harvey has a higher, more tuneful voice and, perhaps as a result, draws the short straw getting to cross-dress.
Katie Brayben is a multi-talented chanteuse who literally reaches her peak, singing on top of a heap of her fellow actors. At various times she also shows skills as a trapeze artist, a cellist and a murderer.
The other ladies, an international combination featuring American-born Krysten Cummings who played Mimi in the original casts of Rent in London and Toronto and has also played the part on Broadway, Israeli-born Sigalit Feig and the Norwegian Katrine Lunde, have powerful voices and reasonable acting talent.
Under director Andrew Wale and choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui there are many beautiful images to take away. The combination of dance and physical theatre with varied but classically-based music is quite seductive.
The plot is thin and any kind of linear narrative almost non-existent but like a dance piece, the images can be powerful. This is never more so than in the finale, featuring the kind of mass slaughter that one might have expected from an evening based on the work of those less than cheery chappies.
This kind of avant-garde production will please or disappoint depending upon expectations. It has remarkably little to do with the music of The Smiths or Morrissey and Marr, at least in sound terms until the title song is provided as an encore in a recognisable version that leaves the audience happily humming as they exit after their 90 minute super-stylish pop video experience.
For those who enjoy offbeat physical theatre, dance or music though, Anonymous Society's work could prove to be a real delight.
Reviewer: Philip Fisher