Review of 'Hair'

hair.jpg https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/hair-the-musical/new-wimbledon-theatre/

I have put off going to this musical primarily because it notoriously includes full-cast nudity but I have always been a fan of at least some of the music it features. However, this is not a musical for the squeamish as it espouses the hippy ethos of free-love and thinking including drug use. It is is certainly in your face even now on it's 50th anniversary. Not so sure it is my thing…but it is certainly interesting.

“Hair” does not have much of a story. The musical takes place in a commune with the various characters talking about their lifestyle, their hopes and their dreams. We meet the flamboyant “Berger” (Jake Quickenden; great voice, lots of energy) who starts the evening off by accosting the audience in his appeal to get some sort of reaction. Later in the show Claude (Paul Wilkins) is sent his draft card to be sent overseas to fight in the Vietnam War and the rest of the group encourage him to burn it but we can see he is conflicted between the free-spirit movement of which he is apart of and doing his duty to his country.

The staging of this production consists of the band playing musical instruments in tents around the back, often high on a platform (much like a musical festival feeling) with the performers in front and under. The stage is decorated with vibrant colours and fabrics in hap-hazard fashion including the safety curtain which is spray painted with slogans from the era. All of the cast and band feature, as you might expect, long flowing hair which really adds to the authentic feel of the piece.

Safety Curtain

The 1 hour 15 minutes first act ends with “Where do I go” ending with the cast walking to the back of the stage shedding clothes then turning to face the audience naked leaving the audience chattering in the interval. There was an interval of twenty minutes followed by a second act of just under an hour ending with, of course, “Let the Sunshine In” where the cast encouraged members of the audience to come onto the stage to join in.

The cast were very enthusiastic as they danced about on the stage dressed in wild coloured fabrics through the large number of songs but this appeared to effect the sound. Early songs were rushed and difficult to hear clearly however later as the signature songs are performed these were resolved with the sound and vocalisation crisp and clear. Otherwise, the performances were convincing and powerful despite leaving the audience a bit non-plused at the end – Looking around at the faces they could have been watching an opera for all of the reaction they gave save the enthusiastic response to the “Let the Sunshine In” finale.

Regarding the show itself, I left feeling dissatisfied at the somewhat melancholy end that suggests the hippie movement we have just learned about is doomed, inevitably, to obsolescence which, indeed, appears to be the case. Indeed, the songs themselves instead of being optimistic are presented in such a way they seem more nostalgic and wistful than aspirational. To modern (and probably even contemporary) ears the music often intentionally shocks such as “Hashish”, “Sodomy” and “I'm Black” but this shock is brief as the musical trundles onto the next song.

Not sure I would see it again, but Hair has some great music and is certainly a piece of it's time.

Rating:

Review Date: 2019-03-25



New Wimbledon Theatre

Location: London (England)

Address: 93 The Broadway, Wimbledon, London SW19 1QG, UK ENGLAND

Public Transport: TUBE Wimbledon NRLOGO Wimbledon

Telephone: +44 (0) 844 871 7646

URL: https://thenewwimbledontheatre.com/

A local theatre in London now owned by the Ambassador Theatre Group with magnificent interiors. The eighth largest theatre in London, it is not small by any means, with two balconies: The Dress Circle and Upper Circle. The entrance on the corner of two streets has a set of steps leading up to the two circles tends to be a bit congested so it is advised to arrive a bit earlier for any events. Generally hosts popular travelling productions but is well known for it's yearly Christmas pantomime.