From the NT website: New York, 1971. There’s a party on the stage of the Weismann Theatre. Tomorrow the iconic building will be demolished. Thirty years after their final performance, the Follies girls gather to have a few drinks, sing a few songs and lie about themselves.
Including such classic songs as Broadway Baby, I’m Still Here and Losing My Mind, Stephen Sondheim’s legendary musical is staged for the first time at the National Theatre.
It was okay.
That’s all I could say as I left the theatre tonight. Which is an utter shame, because the components that made up the play; from the actors, to the sets are outstanding.
All of the actors were incredible. The notes they hit and the length in which they held them; wow!
The set was stunning. From the centre piece of the crumbling Follies frontage to the expansive space that was used for the largest numbers. Being in the Oliver of the NT helps to ensure everyone got a good view.
The outfits were stunning; they sparkled dazzlingly thanks to Swarovski and the outfits did go some of the way to distinguish between the two parallel narratives.
The ‘mirror dance’ scene was a particular favourite of mine; the dance routine becoming a mirror of the young and older characters.
The plot wasn’t your typical sickly sweet, boy meets girl and run off into the sunset, tale that you might expect. Instead it’s a reflection of life, faded dreams, depression, unfulfilled expectations. It was a little dark and twisty; and I really didn’t mind that.
There were solid acting performances from everyone, but a special mention must be given to Imelda Staunton. Having seen her recently in Whose Afraid of Virginia Wolfe? I was pleasantly surprised to see her portray such a weak, small and undone character. Bloody hell, she did it well.
As much as there are many other great things i could mention, I really didn’t enjoy it. Two things pulled me back from the immersive quality of the play.
Firstly, the duel narrative. It has to have it, don’t get me wrong; however I’ve seen it done a little more to my preference. I found it a little choppy and as a play that’s running time is 2 hrs 15 without an interval; I could have done without some of the chorus reliving their youth as well.
Secondly, the music is not my thing. Having read up on the music since, there’s a lyrical motif that plays throughout the songs. But boy, don’t you notice it.
It’s not even the repetition of the particular melody that grated on me most; it was what I felt was an overuse of particular instruments. The first third of the play was string heavy; I don’t have enough of an ear to pinpoint the instrument but it’s was definitely of the string. It was breaking my heart and making me wonder if I would have returned, had there been an interval.
However, for the final few songs there was a change; we got a number that showcased the brass in a jazzy upbeat number, and there was even one that allowed the drums to take on the motif.
Had there been a few more change-ups like that; I’d have been a very happy girl.