Pros: Some of the singing was pretty good and the venue was beautiful.
Cons: Flimsy script that didn’t keep your interest not helped by the fact that the lead actor didn’t know his lines and was reading from an auto-cue throughout.
I had high expectations for Fashion Victim – The Musical. My girlfriend and I both love a bit of a high-camp, OTT show and she’s a big fan of the musicals. We’d read the reviews from the last time the play was staged with King of the East London drag scene Johnny Woo giving it a thumbs-up. Plus, we were excited to be seeing a play in such a grand venue.
We arrived and were waved through the restaurant to a bar where we rubbed shoulders with the likes of Richard Fairbrass and Esther Rantzen, which heightened our expectations further. However, we’d arrived about 20 minutes early so were getting pretty restless by the time we were shown through to the auditorium 20 minutes after the curtain was due to go up. Not a good start. Sadly it was a sign of things to come.
We first met a drag queen who did some sort of skit that totally fell flat with tumbleweeds rolling across the stage and not a snigger from the audience. She then introduced the narrator, a character called Jake D Spangle (Jonathan D Ellis) who oddly came onto the stage carrying an iPad. We thought that he seemed to be reading his lines from it initially. Our suspicions were quickly confirmed when he announced to the audience that they’d only had five days to rehearse the play and at 49 he was far too old to learn lines that quickly so would be reading from an auto cue all night. As if that wasn’t bad enough he also pointed out every time anyone else made a mistake, presumably to mitigate the quality of his own performance. It really highlighted how badly rehearsed it all was.
To give the other performers their dues though, everyone else knew their lines and some of the singing numbers were pretty good. Rosie Glossop who played Mimi Steele belted out a few good numbers, as did Sophie May Whitfield as Kitty Bogard.
The script was very flimsy and certainly didn’t have enough content to keep everyone engaged throughout the two hours we were there. It’s the story of a spoilt rich girl Mimi Steele who comes to London to become a fashion designer. She is introduced to model Cedric Chevalier and they begin to have a relationship but she quickly dumps him for a younger more successful reality TV star. The crux of the story is that she steals one of Jake D Spangle’s designs and in the end it turns out she’s a fraudster. That really is the extent of the plot.
Testament to how uninspiring it was after we returned from the (really long) intermission literally half of the audience had gone home. This included Esther. When even the founder of Childline doesn’t hang around to spare your feelings you know you’ve got problems. To make matters worse everyone around us was thoroughly drunk by this point from all the hanging around and had given up watching and were just talking amongst themselves.
The sets were very simple but worked reasonably well. A plain stage with a projection on a screen at the back with the name of the play and changing images to match the songs such as aeroplanes flying through the sky. However, on one of the images kept jamming, and during another, the lighting technician didn’t once manage to find the actress with the follow spot meaning she was singing in virtual darkness.
Overall not a great play – a shame as it raises money for a worthy cause, The Terrence Higgins Trust. Still, this is the only real reason to go.
Director: Robert McWhir
Musical Director: Michael Webborn
Lighting Design: Adam Puckey
Booking Link: www.fashionvictimthemusical.com
Booking Until: 12 April 2015.