Regular readers will know that I’m already a huge fan of Southwark’s Union Theatre – and indeed visit it virtually every single week day, which may seem a little extreme until you know that I rent an office just around the corner from it, and so use its all-day outdoor coffee bar in its front courtyard daily to pick up my coffee from. (£1.20 – the best coffee bargain in town, too, for freshly-made Americano’s and latte’s, and made by the friendliest team around of regulars Andy, Ian, Mick and Howard)
But though I try to see most shows at the Union, I was actually thinking of passing on seeing the current production of Rodgers and Hart’s The Boys from Syracuse. I’d missed the press night, and hadn’t heard great things, including a review in The Stage that declared “we are left with a character driven show that sadly lacks character”.
But then I also spotted that Kaisa Hammurlund was in it – the only name I recognised – and that she actually provided some: “It’s left to Kaisa Hammarlund as the Courtesan to capture both the tone and temper of the comedy to make it ring true to a contemporary audience,” said The Stage.
And also this week in my weekly class at ArtsEd I did a session on composer Richard Rodgers, and played ‘Sing For Your Supper’ from the score to The Boys from Syracuse in it. That was the decider: I knew that I needed to reacquaint myself with the rest of the score, too.
So it lured me in last night. But ‘m afraid that the production, though full of energy and goodwill, is only a notch above the purely amateur. And it proves that even the Union isn’t infallible. Yet I still had an enjoyable enough time. Partly, of course, it is my own goodwill that matched that of the actors; I am favourably disposed to this venue to begin with, and carry the sense memory of all the previous revelatory productions I’ve enjoyed there. And I was fortified by two rounds of coffee, too – Howard was still tidying up in the interval, so made me another.
But I do wonder: if you were to come upon this production and the grimy venue ‘blind’, you would be unlikely to feel anywhere near as favourably disposed as I was. The charm is supplied mainly by memory. The venue is now part of my own extended daily family, and I’m more accepting of its flaws.