first night

The Addams Family

Carrie Gaunt gets a taste of the macabre with DULOG's The Addams Family
In the interval of DULOG'S The Addams Family, I realised that my notepad was totally bare and that I'd dropped my pen in a moment of over-enthusiastic applause. Retrieving it, I quickly scrawled 'so. good.' and settled down to another hour of astonishingly well-executed musical capers. The incredibly professional nature of DULOG's productions seem to have this effect on me - I forget to 'assess' and just enjoy the show, always the hallmark of a strong performance. The Addams Family is no exception. DULOG's Michaelmas offering is a veritable feast of delights, an amazing opening to the company's theatrical year, and a titillating glimpse of what's to come over the next two terms.
Whilst The Addams Family is something of a left-field choice for the society, even those not numbered among the cult fanbase of the films or comic strip will find it difficult not to enjoy themselves. What the musical does so well is to emphasise the human and relatable side to the family - they may not be your archetypal, 2-4 children set-up, and their penchant for ultra-violence and communing with the dead is somewhat frightening, but the Addams' are warm, loving, family-orientated and surprisingly easy to love. This two-hour glimpse into their lives, by exploring the sentimental side to America's most blood-thirsty family, keeps the audience in the palm of the family's hand and takes them on a surprisingly poignant and moving emotional rollercoaster. The premise that these characters, despite their slightly whacky predelictions, are 'just like us' results in a musical with a great deal of emotional depth. Where DULOG's production really shines is in capitalising on these moments of gravitas and the effect is stunning - I went from snorting with laughter to swallowing a lump in my throat many times over the course of the evening. It is tempting, in characters who ostensibly seem so caricatured, to up the comedy and leave no room for anything deeper, but director Charlie Keable has clearly taken pains to tease out nuanced performances from his cast and the result is a tour-de-force of triple threat talent.
Broccan Tyzack-Carlin, as Gomez, was my favourite performer precisely because his ability to oscillate between the rich comedy and more tender moments his character provides is so strong - well-controlled, well-pitched, understated when he needs to be and energetic when it's appropriate. 'Happy/Sad' was a beautiful moment of father-daughter affection and I found it genuinely moving. George Baker's Fester is fabulous for much the same reason - 'The Moon and Me' was just adorable. Finally, Annie Davison was, as ever, utterly fantastic to watch - Davison has an incredible stage presence and simply commands attention. She was absolutely convincing as the eccentric and rickety Grandma and despite relatively few moments in the spotlight I found myself eagerly anticipating Grandma's cutting comment on proceedings. However, this by no means is intended to infer that other performers were weaker than the three I have mentioned - there is no weak link in this cast and all the actors should be extremely proud of themselves.
The Addams' Family boasts a real powerhouse of a score and under MD John Reddel the band really make the most of it - the percussion section and glockenspiel in particular deserve commendation (not often you get to hear castanets in the Assembly Rooms). Sound levels were sometimes a little bit askew, I'm not sure whether this was due to microphone volumes needing tweaking or the band playing slightly too loud, but this is only a minor point and easily ironed out over the course of the next four performances. Reddel and Alex Bromwich (AMD) have clearly worked very hard to get the most out of such wonderful music and the harmonies in full cast numbers as well as the power in solo numbers are stunning. Jennifer Bullock's (Wednesday) rendition of 'Pulled' was a particular highlight. Technically the production is utterly triumphant, slick and very innovative - there was an audible 'ooh!!' from the audience after some effects. As well as the incredible hard work evidenced in the performances of his cast members, Keable should also be congratulated for his work on the set. Gomez's torture equipment has to be seen to be believed - no wonder Tyzack-Carlin looked so gleeful when he was showing it off.
Whilst a musical about a gothic family with a zombie butler may not sound like everyone's cup of tea, I can assure you that a trip to the theatre this week is absolutely worth it. You will laugh (snortily and inelegantly), you will smile and you will come away with the warmest of warm fuzzy feelings. And feeling mightily impressed by the talent, both onstage and off, in this wonderful production.

19 November 2015

The views expressed in the reviews and comments on this page are those of the reviewer, and are not representative of the views of DST or Durham University.
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