Queen of the Mist by Pint of Wine Theatre Company
This production of Queen of the Mist is the European premier of the musical. It tells of Anna Edson Taylor who was the first person to go over Niagara falls in a barrel….and survive. She does it to gain notoriety and make money out of the event however it all doesn’t go to plan and the musical follows her life right through to her death.
The musical itself is slow moving with very few memorable numbers. It seems to spend a lot of time building up the character of Anna Edson Taylor but very little action took place. The climax of what action there is, with Anna going over the top, takes place just before the interval and even this is underwhelming. The second act therefore drags even more than the first and this pace continues to slow until you feel that noting actually happens in the last 10 minutes. It is a shame as a lot of the themes raised are ones that are relevant today and with a better book this could have been drawn out further.
My impression of the show itself is no refection on the direction or the cast. The direction by Dom O’Hanlon was very intelligent with good use of the small stage at the Brockley Jack. The use of simple props such as suitcases and a plank of wood were effective in setting scenes without elaborate set pieces.
The cast are uniformly strong. Trudi Camilleri plays Anna Edson Taylor and plays the part well. She is not designed to be portrayed a likeable person and Camilleri captured her gumption along with her lack of charisma well. The rest of the cast take on a huge amount of parts between them. Emma Ralston gave one of the vocal highlights of the night when she delivered her number as Carrie Nation as well as adding strong vocals in all of the company numbers.
The show also looks at the relationship between Taylor and her sister Jane (played by Emily Juler) and her manager Frank Russell (played by Will Arundell). Both Juler and Russell brought lovely charactisation to these roles.
There was also a 7 piece orchestra which flanked stage left. They were raised slightly to set them apart from the action and these levels were cleverly used when needed by the cast. The orchestra, conducted by Jordan Li-Smith played the music beautifully and the balance between them and the cast was spot on, no easy task in an intimate venue such as this.
Overall creative direction and a strong cast were let down by a weak, slow moving book and forgettable songs that fail to move the plot along despite interesting underlying but underexplored themes.
Queen of the Mist is running until the 27th April at Brockley Jack Theatre. To find out more visit Pint of Wine Theatre Company’s website.