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LETTERS TO EDITOR
A CurtainUp London Review
by Ben Clover
Stratford East's Da Boyz is an adaptation of the Rodgers and Hart musical The Boys from Syracuse which used Shakespeare's set up as a vehicle for the songs. The Theatre Royal's production does the same thing with great success. The evening was advertised on the flyers as a Hip Hop concert and stood in the stalls it felt like one. DJ Excalibah co-ordinated the music from high up on the stage and looked like a judge presiding over the proceedings below. The action of the piece was performed by a thirty strong cast who sang, rapped and danced with passion and precision. The tale was told with charm, speed and a pleasing mix of musical styles. The highlights were for me were Luce and Luciana's lament on love and the climax of the first half when the beats kicks up a gear to Drum and Bass speed.
From such a uniformly able cast it's hard to pick out individuals but Darren Hart and Kat as the two Dromios stole the show. Lorna Brown and Vanya Taylor had the best number and sang it beautifully.
The partnership of Hip Hop and traditional play in this production is a fruitful one and especially laudable because both forms can be disappointing individually. Rap concerts can feel unstructured and lacking the theatrical edge of the best rock shows. Updating Shakespeare often fails to bring the piece alive and can be plain embarrassing. The marriage of the two genres in Da Boyz accentuates the strengths of both and avoids such pitfalls. The music works better in the context of the play than it would have done otherwise and the play is in turn reinvigorated by the fluidity and dynamism of the delivery.
Although not adapted direct from Shakespeare I kept seeing parallels with the Elizabethan theatre experience during the evening. The lively, standing crowd were made to feel part of the show with call and response routines and local in-jokes. The relationship between audience and performers was such that Shakespearean style asides could be delivered unselfconsciously to the crowd who lapped it up as they would had they been in the Globe. Dance displays in the bar before and after the show gave the evening the air of a carnival that Elizabethan punters would have expected. This is in no way a typical theatre experience and all the better for it.
The cycle of irony would of course be complete if Da Boyz transferred to New York where the The Bomb-itty of Errors was conceived. As for that show, the review by Lizzie Loveridge, who did see it, can be found here.
Mendes at the Donmar
Peter Ackroyd's History of London: The Biography
Somewhere For Me, a Biography of Richard Rodgers
At This Theater
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam
The New York Times Book of Broadway: On the Aisle for the Unforgettable Plays of the Last Century
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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