Imagination isn't enough
For a while I thought 'Imagine This' was connected with John Lennon. When I did find out it was a musical set in the Warsaw Ghetto in 1942 that really put me off. I dislike vacuous shows like ‘Mamma Mia’, but this went too far in the opposite direction
I like a bit of triumph over adversity in musicals –it’s almost ‘de rigeur’ for that feel-good effect. The marvellous ‘Zorro’ I enjoyed the other week was based on real events, and ‘Dickens Unplugged’ was a bit of a mishmash but a reasonable reflection of the great man’s protest at social injustice. ‘Imagine This’ would at least have a story. Came a weekend with heavy rain forecast and I thought, ‘Give it a go’.
When I write websites I can get in free but it’s mainly fringe theatres, or subsidised ones like the Young Vic and The RSC .The ‘price’ is a write-up which seldom takes less than five hours. My ‘affordable’ contact’s ticket supply tends to be at short notice and it’s mainly previews or sluggishly-selling matinees. Often front-row seats, though.
I’d asked to be further back after nearly getting my eyebrows singed in ‘Zorro’, but I found that in the New Theatre, Drury Lane, Row D is the front row. R said he missed one key point entirely – a slogan painted on a briefly appearing backdrop. It was because we were looking upwards at an angle. A bit nerve-racking too when the Roman soldiers were using their lances for impromptu kung fu fights- .even more attention-grabbing than Ian MacKellan’s full frontal as ‘King Lear’ in the same theatre.
In fact, ‘Imagine This’ wasn’t half bad as far as staging, costumes, singing and acting went. The plotline, about a troupe that puts on a show to boost morale in the ghetto, about oppression in ancient Rome, was promising; the star-crossed romantic leads were good. The music was weak, though, and in fact the best tune was in the first scene, called ‘The Last Day of Summer, performed by the whole cast, on the great revolving stage, in marvellous thirties costumes. The carousel motif was used cleverly throughout to reflect the theme of recurring historical cycles, rises and falls and the triumph of hope over adversity.
Unfortunately, it didn’t convince me. The second verse of title song, very well delivered by star Peter Polycarpou asked us to imagine a giant statue with a torch rising from the sea. Just in case anyone had missed the pointed reference to the US, one of the cast climbed on a table, draped in a cloth and holding a rolled magazine aloft. No wonder the Americansin the audience liked it, but in light of recent occupations and complaints of oppression it wasn’t exactly tactful. The rest of the audience took it quite well, I think.
There was indeed a strong positive aspect to the play – where people share common bonds and fight a common enemy the mind’s capacity to soar above immediate circumstances is inspiring. Unfortunately, as the outcomes of the double plots made all too clear, the end of suffering is not so uplifting. Ultimately the message of the show seemed Hollywood-inspired and chimed ill with stark realities, however stylistically presented.
'Imagine This' is at the New Theatre, Drury Lane. More about it here:
'Zorro' is at The Garrick Theatre, Charing Cross Road:
'Dickens Unplugged' is at The Comedy Theatre, Panton Street:
See the full review at: