Hedwig and the Angry Inch
The script is well written with some great humour, varying from innuedo, to dry, to just plain bizarre:
" It is clear that I must find my other half. But is it a he or a she? ...Does my other half have the looks, the luck, the love? ...Were we really separated forcibly or did he just run of with the good stuff?...And what about sex? Is that how we put ourselves back together again?...Or can two people actually become one again? And if we're driving on the autobahn when it happens, can we still use the diamond lane?"
It bases itself on a narrative told by Hedwig herself, born Hansel, in East Berlin, of her childhood and subsequent sex change. It takes a reflective look at her life as an "internationally ignored" rock star, shadowed by her escape from East Berlin where she was told, " to be free, on must give up a little part of oneself." As the story develops we learn of her over the shoulder love relationship with Tommy Speck and how she has ended up at the Playhouse Theatre. The story is punctured with great song numbers backed by a very talented band, The Angry Inch, wonderfully costumed and characterised. For example the MD, Skszp, played with wonderful distain by Joe Pecorino " a big big fan of flock of seagulls." And an incredibly masculine character, Yitzak, played convincingly by Elizabeth Marsh, who's vocal back-up is powerful and challenges Michael's authority on stage. It provides a great onstage relationship between the two.
Michael has a wonderful relationship with the audience, reducing the audience / actor gap which is an all too familiar signiture of west end shows and really makes his story very poignant. His ability to put emotion into a very hard role is great and as he gradually transforms on stage you wonder at his ability to physically spend so long on stage putting so much energy onto the role.
You can't be sure whether the transformation is real or just in the imagination of Hedwig which opens up a huge number of possibilities and questions. Gender bending it is and with great success, as I for one know the difficulties to achieve this on stage and the costumes work very well indeed. In fact the set and lighting really add to the realisation of what has actually happened in a harsh reflective way. The images projected on stage, ( supposedly from Hedwigs diary ) illustrate the story with a poignant childish innocence which completely contrasts with he subject of the story.
As the story develops the audience are made aware of political events that have had a huge effect on Hedwig. The music takes turns, changing genres, from very soft melodies to hard rock and punk numbers. Despite its subject its a hugely fun and feel good show and I've certainly got hooked on the music.
" Ladies and gentlemen whether you like it or not - Hedwig" I definitely like it, and I recommend it as a very different theatre experience, one which is sadly not often seen in west end venues.
(Hannah Gravestock (firstname.lastname@example.org))
Hedwig and the Angry Inch has received 'mixed to good' notices from the popular press.... THE INDEPENDENT loved the show saying, "As a musical, Hedwig has it all: melodrama, pathos, searing humour and a handful of fantastic songs. Move over Rocky Horror and make way for a brand new cult." THE TIMES was more luke-war saying, "This off-Broadway cult looks awfully thin in the West End." THE DAILY TELEGRAPH says, "Though small in scale, and more of a cabaret than a full-blown tune-and-toe show, there is little doubt that Hedwig and the Angry Inch is the best rock musical since The Rocky Horror Show." THE EVENING STANDARD says, "If only Michael Cerveris, in the role of Hedwig, had the right voice and wit, then this cabaret-musical might have been able to secure the cult status and coterie appeal it achieved off-Broadway. But it turns out to be virtually a one-transexual show and Cerveris's nasal, throaty voice is all too often blotted out by the eloquent, four-strong band that pitches itself too loud." TIME OUT says 'Hedwig', " suffers from being nowhere near as funny as it has hitherto assumed itself to be." THE STAGE says, "American Michael Cerveris has great stage presence and a hell of a voice..."