A Noel Coward Play

Last weekend, Maddie came up to see me and we had an excellent weekend of doing nothing planned. And then we organised going to the Sea Life Centre. And then I saw that Private Lives was on that the Alex. That’s the New Alexandra Theatre, for those not au fait with the Birmingham theatres.

Private Lives is a play by Noel Coward who I love. His plays are delightfully louche with strong women, dandy esque men (though they’re the wrong era to truly call them dandies) and truly fantastic sets, because they’re all set in the 20/30s.

Me and Maddie, of course, decided that this was a play we had to see and bought tickets accordingly. So after we’d spent hours at the Sealife Centre, making friends with Barry the eel, finding out star fish feel like fish fingers and being generally silly, we adulted up and went to the Alex.

With French windows on the stage as we sat down, I was practically vibrating with excitement. I’d never seen a Noel Coward play on the stage before and was convinced it was going to be incredible.

The opening set was fantastic. 
Oh how wrong I was. The play itself was good. Never fear, my love of Noel Coward remains intact. But the acting was thoroughly mediocre.

Tom Chambers (from Strictly Come Dancing,Waterloo Road and other British TV near you) was not good. I might even go so far as to say bad. As the handsome Elyot, he was rather good at twenties charleston and smoking leisurely. But his character went from affected apathy to shouting rage with no gradiation between the two. He also turned camp on occasion to make up for how badly he delivered a line that ought to get a laugh – which is pretty unforgivable. Its hard to see why either of the women would ever fall for him.

I thought Laura Rogers was rather good as “wild”, gender norm defying Amanda. Certainly when Elyot was rather sexist, her “what exactly did you just say” stare was glorious. But it’s possible that she only appeared to be so good because her leading man was so wooden.

Charlotte Richie and Richard Teverson were okay as the new spouses of Amanda and Elyot but nothing to write home about. However, the unknown actress as the French maid was great. I am immensely sad that she was only on stage for about five minutes.

Afterwards, I read some reviews from early in the run and the general consensus is that it is not a well acted play, and that it’s possible that the cast are merely going through the motions for the parts of England that aren’t London. And if that’s true, that’s really bad manners.

The experience hasn’t put me off Noel Coward plays, in fact it makes me want to see one more. But a well acted one. One where the highlight of the lead male’s performance isn’t that he can do a passable twenties charleston.

The Legend of Galavant

In my final year of university, I watched a lot of TV. Specifically a lot of North American TV. Orange is the New Black, Elementary, Orphan Black, How to Get Away with Murder. Most of these I had friends who were watching them too. But amongst this cavalcade of well known programmes, I also watched Galavant. And there’s no one quite like Galavant.

How to explain Galavant… It’s a tongue in cheek, fourth wall breaking, deconstruction of quasi medieval, fairy tale esque stories. That’s also a musical.

Warning: Spoilers below

This song summarises the paragraph below. Thankfully, it’s not me singing.

Series 1 opens with a song about Galavant, the hero of seven kingdoms, whose girlfriend Madalena is kidnapped by the evil King Richard and is going to be forced to marry him. Naturally, the hero of seven kingdoms isn’t going to stand for that. Singlehanded, Galavant storms the castle, where the guards willing fall rather than die and he enters the Great Hall, makes a speech about true love defeating all. And then his girl chooses the king. Because fame and fortune. Sorry Gal.

The plot of the series spirals from there, with the main characters of Galavant, a now retired hero, and Princess Isabella, whose land has been conquered by King Richard. You’ve also got Sid as Galavant’s long suffering squire, Madalena, as the sharp worded Queen who thinks Richard’s useless, Richard, who just wants to please his wife and maybe start another war, and Gareth, Richard’s oldest friend and bodyguard.

The songs are composed by Alan Menken and Christopher Lennertz. You might recognise the name Menken from musical films like The Little Mermaid, The Little Shop of Horrors, and Aladdin. Genres range from rap battles to love songs to broadway style duet. Always entertaining, often genre subverting (see below Maybe You’re Not The Worst Thing Ever – yes, spoilers) and the cast isn’t half bad at singing. Actually they’re quite good – especially the Jester.

And talking of the cast, they’re incredible. From relatively unknown actors like Joshua Sasse, Karen David and Mallory Jansen, to more well known faces like Timothy Odmundson and Vinnie Jones. And playing spot the British actor is pretty fun – Karen David was in Waterloo Road, Darren Evans was in being Human and Luke Youngblood was in Harry Potter.. What’s more fun is the guest cast. Weird Al as a monk who took a vow of singing, Kylie Minogue as Queen and landlady of the Enchanted Forest, Robert Lindsay as the most evil man in the land and an excellent wedding planner and Hugh Bonneville as an all singing, all dancing pirate to name a few.

The series suffers a little from a lack of diversity. While some of the main characters stop it being an all white production, there’s some serious room for improvement. Particularly jarring is where Sid, one of very few black characters, is revealed to also be Jewish. It feels a little like too much like trying to put all the diversity on one character.

Also, I’m not sure if Galavant passes the Bechdel test. Madalena and Isabella mostly talk about Galavant when they’re together, Isabella and her mother are usually talking about King Richard, Galavant or Isabella’s 11 year old cousin Harry, and I’m not convinced Roberta ever gets to talk to any other women. Apart from to sing at the female half of the zombie army that they lead about Richard.

However, the series is very funny, a little bit weird and is all about the deconstruction of the princess myth. Which means I am very here for it. It’s got dragons, and zombies and more pop culture references than you can shake a stick at. And most importantly, there’s 2 seasons that wrap up nicely, though there’s room left for a continuation if Galavant gets renewed.

So go, revel in the nonsense and joy that is the legend of Galavant.