Sunday in the Park with George

Sun 10th – Mon 25th August 2014

reviews

Gender Trouble

at 16:40 on 18th Aug 2014

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Cambridge University Musical Theatre Society's production of 'Sunday in the Park with George' told of the love story between victorian painter Georges and his model 'Dot'.

Whilst the production was punctuated by moments of great comedy and joy, it was ultimately let down by the way it was directed and acted. Lines were often said in un-dynamic ways ("Look. There is that famous painter" being a line that was said with a particular lack of enthusiasm). During group numbers there was a discrepancy between the facial animation some actors gave compared to others, which created an overall unconvincing theatrical image.

That said, the production featured some really very impressive acting, not least from female lead Jess Peet, who's presentation of 'Dot' was both hilarious and touchingly sympathetic at the same time. Other highlights included Andrew Room's portrayal of 'Georges', and the hilarious comic duo of Am Reddington and Julia Kass as 'Yvonne' and Celeste'.

The idea to construct a window made out of blank canvases was an image so effective that it seemed odd not to have cropped up somewhere in theatre before. These choreographed images were very impressive and it was a shame there weren't more of them, as the production at times suffered from being partially static.

Overall the production was certainly a competent piece of theatre and worth seeing if you happen to be in C venues at a loose end.

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Oliver Collard

at 01:00 on 19th Aug 2014

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‘Order, design, tension, balance, light, harmony.’ Much of this artistic maxim seems to inform a very competent production of Sunday in the Park with George, a musical account of painter Georges Seurat’s most famous painting. No strangers to Sondheim, CUMTS (Cambridge University Musical Theatre Society) follow last year's success with Assassins, again managing to produce a spectacle even with the minimalist Fringe aesthetic and the accompanying demands on duration.

The decision to cut most of the second act leaves the piece intact, although some of the early scenes are a bit too languid even for a Sunday afternoon. The canvasses decked with various figures from Seurat’s most famous painting form the pieces of an iconic puzzle: A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jette.

There are one or two moments where Georges (Andrew Room) fails to really hit the climactic high notes, but his performance gains impetus as everything falls into place and he stands at the centre of the masterpiece. Dot (Jess Peet), a character who is everything George is not, draws our sympathy from the start with a funny opening number that vents her annoyance at having to be her lover’s statuesque model - a counterpoint to George’s intense probity as he sketches on.

In keeping with the spirit of the show, minor characters also manage to seize their moment in the sun. One stand out performer is Georges’ mother (Sarah Mercer) whose facial expressions amusingly convey her character’s age and world weariness and who produces a moving duet with her son on the song ‘Beautiful’. Two American newlyweds (Megan Henson and Kyle Turakhia) who are underwhelmed by Paris become the embodiment of that old joke about America and a pot of yoghurt; leave the latter alone for a few hundred years and it will grow a culture.

The performing talent of the cast as an ensemble is never really in doubt as they take on the musical and lyrical complexity of the score. The rapid-fire - eight syllables per bar to be exact - lines of ‘It’s Hot up Here’ are tightly delivered as the characters of the painting come to life, collectively voicing their discomfort.

Occasionally, it seems they might be one or two cast members short as performers have to double up or effect a rushed costume change during key scenes. After the slow pace of the first part, it does seem that the ending comes about rather quickly.

Nonetheless, the harmonies of ‘Sunday’ are excellent. This finale also showcases some innovative direction as the rest of the cast hum unobtrusively under Georges’ dialogue, a touch which adds to the scene’s already ethereal quality. Visionary art - music or painting - demands sacrifice and fanatical self-faith in exchange for an unlikely hereafter. CUMTS do justice to this tension at the heart of the music in a competent and, at times, excellent rendition of the show.

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