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Sweet Charity (Susan Elkin reviews)

Artform at Broadway Theatre, Catford

This is an interesting ‘chamber version’ of a piece which is usually staged on a larger scale – at Menier Chocolate Factory in 2009 with a run at Theatre Royal Haymarket in 2010 – for example. Artform’s pretty competent cast of thirteen turns it into thoughtfully intimate theatre for which Catford Broadway’s studio space works well. And it’s a long time since I’ve seen a show of this type in a venue of this sort in which performers project more than adequately without radio mics.

It’s a 1960s show telling the story of a dance hall hostess (fine line between that and the Oldest Profession) desperate to escape and find true love. Her colleagues are justifiably cynical. And then just when it looks as if she has got her wish, her Prince Charming gets cold feet and she’s denied a happy ending.

There’s delightful work from Claire Goad as Charity who is rarely off stage. She is totally of top of the role with her expressively mobile eyes, eloquent flick of the blonde bob wig, ruefulness, comic timing, intensity and accomplished dancing. Her acting while concealed in Vittorio Vidal’s (Aneurin Pascoe – good) closet is lovely comedy.

Nathan Pollpeter plays Oscar Lindquist – so nearly the love of Charity’s life. He is a very accomplished, totally convincing actor. The scenes with Charity in the lift and at the top of the ferris wheel are very effectively paced. This more than compensates for his unremarkable singing.

Full marks to the other eleven cast members who play all the support roles and provide a vibrant ensemble. The sexy Big Spender number is terrific, for example. Sheila Arden, director, clearly knows exactly how to get the best out of a non-pro cast in a bijoux space and Caroline Essenhigh is, as ever, an imaginative choreographer.

The set – designed and constructed by various people as usual in a company where everything’s voluntary – provides a simple brick wall at the back, a moveable fountain, some basic furniture and simple suggestions of other things such as pole to suggest the lift and the ferris wheel – which means that actors can use mime for the lift button and so forth pretty successfully.

And oh yes, I do love a good band. One of the strengths of this enjoyable show is the six fine players squeezed into a stage right corner led by MD, John Hargreaves from keyboard. Well done Benjamin Essenhigh on drums in particular who has to make a 90 degree turn from his music to see Hargreaves but never gets out of synch.

First published in Sardines:

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Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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