first night

Kiss Me, Kate

Tom Mander reviews this year's DULOG Gala Show.

 DULOG’s Gala show is always a key feature in the DST calendar and Kiss Me, Kate had a lot of pressure on it to match the standard of its predecessors. Let’s open by saying it doesn’t disappoint. Some may consider Cole Porter’s late 40’s classic a safe option especially in comparison with some other shows in DULOG’s repertoire. However, one cannot argue with the cast’s crisp and energetic performance.

The show was very well cast and the acting talent really brought out the best in Porter’s larger-than-life characters. The style was dramatic without being stereotyped, engaging without being abrasive. The audience loved the comedic antics of the gangsters, played by Harvey Comerford and Dominic McGovern. Their breaking of the fourth wall was an excellent directorial choice and added so much more to their characters. Lois Lane, played by Sarah Slimani, stood out for all the right reasons. Distinctive idiosyncrasies, voice and comedic actions showed Slimani’s skill in the character development. Similarly, did Olivia Race as stage manager Roberta – a sterling voice and brash exterior created some strong comedic moments.

However, the stand out feature of this show is its songs. Of course, there are the songs with the dodgy titles which betray the musical’s age and sometimes it was noticeable, in a dip in energy, how these were not the cast’s favourites. Nevertheless, when the cast and the band got behind a good number it was sensational. The cast offered a visual and audible feast: high energy, sharp execution, strong chemistry. Although in a few places some vocalists were a little drowned out, the band was magnificent. Nick Fleet and company were on top of everything without fail throughout. In my opinion, ‘Too Darn Hot’ was on another level. Jennifer Bullock mentioned in the programme it was ‘[her] biggest challenge’ to choreograph her very strong dance troupe, but the care and attention was clear. The dynamic use of small parts of the cast joining together for its finale worked so well and kept audiences visually entertained for the songs duration. Alex Prescot’s energy and vocals really stood out making it into a true showstopper.

Michael Nower and his tech team also came into their own here with immersive deep purple lighting and lingering smoke – straight out of an inner city alleyway. The tech and the set worked effectively and appropriately together, doing a fantastic job of keeping the audience engaged and complementing the action. With so much going on ‘the crew’ must be congratulated: the scene changes were clean and their pace kept the musical going at full speed.

Although not having being involved in a musical before, Kate Barton directed an excellent example of one. The piece flowed effortlessly and the transitions between on-stage and off-stage for the play-within-the-play were clean cut. The longer stretches of acting, such as the dressing room scenes, had an excellent use of space and levels which complemented the strong acting Barton had excellently selected. The union of all the different teams, acting, dancing, music and tech, had such a distinctive synergy that the only appropriate adjective I can use is professional. So, should you go see it? The show is classic musical theatre, and for someone who is not a huge fan of this genre, some parts were not to my personal tastes – I would put this down to the play choice itself. That being said, I can absolutely appreciate the hard work and immense skill that has gone into this exquisite example of what DULOG can do – a great show. And if you like musicals… what on earth are you waiting for?

20 January 2016

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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