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<<  -- 2 --  David Thompson    NAUGHTY BUT NICE


We are not subjected, in the conventional sense, to witnessing the unfolding of a story. Rather, we are bidden, in the prologue, to roll up and be entertained, to 'come to the cabaret', or, more properly, the circus, with its acrobatic performances, and its parade of exotic animals. In particular, we watch the performances of a series of entertainers: Nelly, Eve, Mignon, Adelaide and Lulu -- all of which are one and the same, but perceived as different individuals by other members of the company. Having taken our seats in the real theatre, we move, within the prologue, into a different, more exotic arena, where we are detached from reality, and conventional emotional involvement, and witness an entertainment at second remove. In this way, what seems, on paper, both absurd, implausible, decadent and loathsome, becomes an involving entertainment, rather than a sleezy tragedy. Thus, we are bewitched by Lulu herself. We love her, rather than loathe her. She persuades us to sit back and indulge the voyeuristic in us. And how enjoyable that is. The confessional can wait!

Lisa Saffer as Lulu. Photo: Neil Libbert

As Lulu, Lisa Saffer is sensational. Her assumption of the role (or roles) is total and triumphant. She is tiny in stature, but is possessed of a ravishing soprano voice that rides the large orchestra, and fills the vast arena of the Coliseum with ease. She is in total technical command, and delivers the hair-raisingly difficult vocal lines with total security. If that were all, we would be well content, but she is a consummate actress, too, and -- let's not beat about the bush -- very sexy. Her solo curtain call was cheered to the rafters; long, loud and thoroughly deserved. A wonderful assumption.

But there were no weak links in the cast. Susan Parry's Geschwitz was gloriously sung and finely acted. Robert Hayward, as Dr Schön/Jack the Ripper gave a deliciously sinister impersonation of these aspects of a pantomime villain for grown-ups. The ever-reliable Gwynne Howell once again proved what a fine character actor he is, with richly observed and highly entertaining assumption of Schigolch. The more minor roles were never less than adequately done, and there was some fine ensemble playing, especially in the dark farce that opens Act two, where various unlikely aspiring lovers come, go and hide.

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Copyright © 6 June 2002 David Thompson, Eastwood, Essex, UK





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