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Blitz!, Union Theatre – Review

Blitz is presented as part of the Union Theatre Essential Classics season, which this year is celebrating V.E. Day. Written by Lionel Bart in the 1960s, it’s apparently based on his childhood memories of London’s East End during the 1940s.  It centres around two generations within two families, the Blitzteins and the Lockes.  Mrs Blitztein (Jessica Martin) has a running battle of words with Mr Locke (Michael Martin), the pair trading insults at every opportunity.  Locke’s expressions of anti-Semitism has a very authentic feel about them, being even more uncomfortable given the recent increase of such incidents around London. …

Summary

Rating

Good

A good cast deliver the catchy score in this revival of Lionel Bart’s nostalgic musical about EastEnders coping with the bombing during World War Two. Cleverly adapted for a small stage.

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Blitz is presented as part of the Union Theatre Essential Classics season, which this year is celebrating V.E. Day. Written by Lionel Bart in the 1960s, it’s apparently based on his childhood memories of London’s East End during the 1940s.  It centres around two generations within two families, the Blitzteins and the Lockes.  Mrs Blitztein (Jessica Martin) has a running battle of words with Mr Locke (Michael Martin), the pair trading insults at every opportunity.  Locke’s expressions of anti-Semitism has a very authentic feel about them, being even more uncomfortable given the recent increase of such incidents around London.  Mrs Blitztein gives as good as she gets though. Thankfully the next generation hold no such views and soon a romance blossoms between Rachel Blitztein (Danniella Schindler) and George Locke (Connor Carson).  The story follows the well-trodden format of the characters encountering obstacles and misfortunes, with everyone living happily ever after in the end.

The original production is described as being quite spectacular and incredibly expensive, with a cast of thousands (well, a lot), special effects and huge set pieces – no expense spared.  Transforming that into the tiny Union Theatre must have been quite a challenge.  Reuben Speed’s well-designed set makes good use of the small space available, invoking the claustrophobic atmosphere of the underground shelters, helped further by the rumbling sounds of the train’s overhead.  The costumes and makeup create an authentic looking impression of the 1940s.

Lionel Bart’s songs are of the quality and style that you would expect, all delivered by a very talented cast.  However, the acoustics, on occasion,  make it hard to hear, with the band sometimes drowning out the singers. At one point when George is singing his love for Rachel, repeatedly declaring that it was ‘. . . loud and clear. . .’ it was anything but. 

The dance numbers are mostly of a lively ‘knees-up’ style, Daniel Maguire’s skillful choreography managing to successfully cram plenty of people and action on to the small stage without mishap. Delivery of the dialogue is a bit ‘shouty’ throughout and could have done with a bit more variation.  There were also a few timing issues which will no doubt be ironed out. 

I suspect the success of the original 1962 production was assisted by the amount of money thrown at it along with the timing coinciding with a sense of nostalgia for the Blitz Spirit. There’s not much of a plot really and it’s all a bit rose tinted.  Despite the catchy score, good performances and clever adaptation, it just all seemed a bit old fashioned.

Music and Lyrics by:  Lionel Bart
Directed by: Phil Wilmott
Produced by: Sasha Regan
Musical Direction by: Rosa Lennox
Choreography by: Daniel Maguire
Box Office: 02072619876
Booking Link:  http://www.uniontheatre.biz/blitz.html
Booking Until: 7 March 2020

About Irene Lloyd

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Currently a desk zombie in the public sector, Irene has had no formal training or experience in anything theatrical. She does, however, seem to spend an awful lot of her spare time and spare cash going to the theatre. So, all views expressed will be from the perspective of the person on the Clapham omnibus - which is what most audiences are made up of after all.