For a show that claims to be a Hip-Hop reworking of Rodger’s and Hart’s The Boys from Syracuse, there is precious little Hart and virtually no Rodgers. Moreover this second or third hand reworking of Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors bears only a passing resemblance to the original plot.
But if you forget classic musical comedy conventions, even forget Rodgers and Hart, and accept this marvellous piece of contemporary theatre on its own terms I guarantee that you will have a marvellously exhilarating and energising evening.
This deconstruction of the musical genre by the creative team of DJ Excalibah, MC Skolla and director Ultz, samples and remixes the original score to a repetitive but curiously mesmerising rap beat, using basic themes and bass lines and descanting melody and treble lines to stunning vocal arrangements by Marylyn Gentle. This is indeed musical theatre, Jim, but not as we know it.
The story of the Antipolus twins and their servants, separated at sea, and eventually reunited many years later, in Ephesus, after many farcical incidents of confusion and misidentification, is translated into a world of contemporary ethnic urban-speak. Judging by the reaction of the yelps and shouts from the youthful audience, this is undoubtedly a world with which today’s kids can identify.
Sure the piece has some rough edges, only to be expected in a show where only the principals are professional performers, but this cast of thirty sing and dance their socks off in a stunning array of precision street dance, cunningly choreographed by Steady. You might say it is Fame, with attitude.
Lorna Brown is outstanding as Adriana whose scat version of “Falling in Love with Love” is one of Da Boyz’s many highlights. Forget Little Miss Dynamite, go see Lorna Brown, she is a star in the making. Equally stunning is Vanya Taylor as Lucianna who delivers a rousing version of “This Can’t be Love”. And I bet Rodgers and Hart never envisaged “Sing for your Supper” in the raunchy, slinky and sensuous version as presented by Susan Lawson-Reynolds.
As to the men, the Dromio brothers, (Kat and Darren Hart) possess superb comic timing and are a joy to watch whenever they are on stage. Kyza (Antipolus from Syracuse) has a delightfully diffident and easy charm reminiscent of an early Lenny Henry.
This is a show of which Stratford East should be proud. And if Joan Littlewood is looking down from above, I am sure she would be very, very, proud too.
- Stephen Gilchrist