Maggie May: Finborough Theatre, London
Reviewed 29th March 2019.
Fifty-five years after its premiere at the Adelphi Theatre in 1964, Maggie May is playing a strictly limited run at the intimate Finborough Theatre in London. This production marks the 20th Anniversary of the death of Lionel Bart winner of the Ivor Novello Award for the Outstanding Score of the Year and the Critics’ Poll Award for Best New British Musical. Maggie May tells the story of ‘street-walker’ Maggie May Duffy and her childhood sweetheart, Patrick Casey set against the economic decline in Liverpool in the 1960’s. As tensions rise high at the docks Patrick finds himself torn as he wants to support both his fellow union members but also his love, Maggie.
The diverse music, by Lionel Bart, ranges from Rock’n’Roll, classic chorus numbers and bitter sweet ballads and is performed excellently by the entire cast. Henry Brennan works tirelessly on the piano as MD to accompany the talented cast and proves that just a single piano can work just as well as a full band to create emotion, dynamics and atmosphere. The group sections, in particular, work really well especially the harmonies created by the men. Kara Lily Hayworth’s soulful voice, reminiscent of the war time greats, contrasts the deep vocals provided by the men brilliantly. Her unique voice also compliments James Darch’s who excels throughout the show particularly during his emotional song ‘I’m Me‘. James Darch’s likeable character, Patrick Casey, is fantastic to watch as he develops and goes on a journey through the production. All of the cast fully embody their characters and this is shown through the interactions they have with each other onstage. The cast are able to switch emotions and create different atmospheres very quickly during the fairly complicated plot. The production does, at times, feel rushed and underdeveloped. At points the plot is not entirely clear and the decisions of the characters not explained in enough depth.
The production team have gone to great lengths to ensure that the show is as immersive as possible and the simple-yet-effective set by Verity Johnson coupled with the 1960’s costumes certainly helps achieve this. Using a traverse stage the audience feel very close to the action and involved from the beginning. At points the strong smell of smoke and use of haze is slightly overpowering but it certainly enables the audience to be transported to the Liverpool docks in the height of the 60’s. Lighting by Jonathon Simpson, further adds to the atmosphere and again, considering the intimate venue, is used particularly effectively. Considering the size of the theatre the choreographer, Sam Spencer Lane, must be commended for managing to incorporate clever dance sections which are not only in keeping with the characters but high energy and make the best use of the space.
Managing to capture the emotions and atmosphere of the Liverpool docks during the economic decline of Liverpool’s docks at the height of the City’s cultural revival, Maggie May is certainly an entertaining night out. Whilst it has similar central themes to many shows its variety of music, talented cast and clever use of space makes it a very effective piece of theatre. Having not been shown on a professional stage since 1964 it is definitely worth a visit to the Finborough Theatre to experience this piece of theatre history – don’t wait another 55 years to see it!
Maggie May runs at the Finborough Theatre in London until the 20th April 2019. For information and tickets click here.
Photo Credit: Ali Wright