Pros: This musical score is a genius mix of styles and sounds, creating the perfect balance of catchy and crazy tunes.
Cons: The cast was not miked. Consequently some of the lyrics and vocals were lost. And the set and costumes don’t reflect the madness of the show as much as they could.
Invisible question marks were hanging over my head throughout this entire performance. Who? What? Where? Why? When it comes to Doctor Selavy’s Magic Theatre, I cannot answer any of these with confidence.
The story is… The story begins…There is a story. I think.
There is definitely a central character. At one moment Matt (Matthew Durkan) is a successful twenty-something city banker, the next he is buckled in a straight jacket and wearing a pirate’s hat, and even he doesn’t seem to know why.
Matt is a new patient at a mental asylum, subject to Doctor Selavy’s (Niccoló Curradi) five-day cure. But there are no Rorschach tests or electro shocks at this institute. The therapies here are much more experimental, and the doctors? Downright cray cray. There are five of them and they first appear as puppets, their limbs controlled by Dr Selavy, the puppeteer.
The show follows wide-eyed Matt as he is led through theatricalised versions of major life crises and temptations: wealth, business, food, excess, love, death and power. One by one the doctors stand on the wooden crate in the centre of the stage to administer their musical treatments. There are nice shifts in tempo between each of the days, particularly in the middle, when the mood becomes gentle, and the pace slows down.
There is no dialogue in this production, just one song after another, which can be confusing for the audience who are trying to interpret what is happening. The set and the costumes do little to provide any answers. Instead of white padded walls, there are just vaudeville style banners, a string of rainbow ball lights, and some red balloons. The doctors are dressed more like patients. One is shirtless and covered in bloodstains and bruises. Another is in a mini shift dress and turban. I think the production could have made more of these visuals, particularly for a show that gives a licence to do anything on stage and get away with it.
Once you stop trying to make sense of Doctor Selavy’s Magic Theatre, and let yourself just relish in whatever this show is, it is actually highly enjoyable, particularly because the songs are brilliant. There is a real mix of musical styles; folk, opera, rock, cabaret and doo-wup. Let’s hear it for Daddy Moolah and Swinging at the Stock Exchange are the standouts. The choreography in these company numbers is very entertaining, and you can tell the cast get a kick out of acting crazy. Comparatively the simple, yet beautiful Life On the Inside, which is reprised by Matt’s wife throughout the show, provides the perfect sane balance.
Some of the vocals could have been improved. A couple of harmonies sounded flat, and the cast were not miked, which only became a problem during the rock songs, when the singing and lyrics were drowned out by the band. I may have walked out of the theatre with more questions than answers, but the spirit of this show is essentially fun, and easy to take delight in, which I enjoyed without a doubt.
Director: Patrick Kennedy
Producer: Alma Fournier-Carballo and Patrick Kennedy
Musical Director: Peter Mitchell
Choreographer: Alyssa Noble
Composer: Stanley Silverman
Lyricist: Tom Hendry
Booking Until: 1st February 2014
Booking Link: http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/dr-selavys-magic-theatre/new-wimbledon-studio/