Pros: Colourful, immersive set. Excellent bright, lively and infectious performance.
Cons: Uncomfortably hot within the performance space.
The small and cosy environs of The Vaults are perfect for this production with one exception: the heat. It was uncomfortably warm, but the large glossy programme did double up nicely as a useful fan. The smaller venue enabled some ‘cool’ audience involvement. I stress this is audience involvement, such as being addressed by a cast member, holding a prop or a bit of dancing at the end, so no need to panic if you have an aversion to audience participation.
The space had been transformed into a psychedelic 60s den with the entrance covered in pictures and posters from the era, multi coloured wall coverings, platforms and tents. It is worth getting there early enough to sip on a cocktail and ‘hang loose’ in your preferred space. The atmosphere is carried through to the performance area which is bedecked in multi-coloured hanging ribbons.
Hair the Musical opened in London in 1968, a day after the abolition of theatre censorship that had been in place since 1737. So it was able to portray nudity and drug taking, and also use swearing and some sexually explicit language. There was a lot of fuss made at the time, but the shock value is no longer what it once was. This performance started with some references to Donald Trump, in what seemed like a half-hearted attempt at updating the themes, but this was not really necessary. They didn’t need signposting, and perhaps the most scandalous thing is that some do not seem to have moved on much in five decades. The production wisely focused on a fun, energetic couple of hours with gentle humour, making the most of the fast pace of the musical numbers and the usual 60s clichés.
To recap the plot: The Tribe are a group of hippies who are pro-drugs and free love and against the Vietnam War. One of their number, Claude (Robert Metson), gets his draft papers and has to decide whether to burn them and go to Canada or to report as instructed. The songs include Aquarius, Good Morning Starshine and I Got Life. Although some voices were stronger than others – Natalie Green in particular springs to mind – the whole cast is excellent, performing with an infectious vitality and enthusiasm. Metson portrayed Claude with a sympathetic naivety and Andy Coxon as Burger was suitably eccentric. Maeve Black’s costumes and set decoration got that 60s vibe going, helped by the pervading aroma of incense and some great wigs. William Whelton gave us some really good choreography making excellent use of the space available and supporting easy interactions with the audience.
The whole thing ended with a ‘dance in’ to Let the Sun Shine In, which I defy you to stop singing to yourself over the following 24 hours. Although it was all a bit old fashioned and reminded me too much of Neil from The Young Ones, the show was really good fun, so dust off your tie-dyes and flares and go join the ‘Beautiful People’.
Peace and Love.
Director: Jonathan O’Boyle
Musical Director: Gareth Bretherton
Producer: Aria Entertainment, Senbla and Hope Mill Theatre
Choreography: William Whelton
Book and Lyrics: James Rado and Gerome Ragni
Music: Galt MacDermot
Design and Costume: Maeve Black
Sound: Max Perryman and Chris Bogg
Box Office: 0207 0401 9603
Booking Link: https://www.thevaults.london/hair-the-musical
Booking Until: 13 January 2018