Saturday, 24 February 2018
Theatre review: Harold and Maude
Harold's mother (Rebecca Caine) despairs of her son's peculiarity and wants to quickly marry him off in the hope it'll get him to settle down, but under Maude's influence he becomes a free spirit, casting off his morbid side in a different way.
Harold and Maude is a play about eccentrics and Thom Southerland plays with this by making the production eccentric as well: Best known as a director of musicals, he treats this straight play almost like an actor-musician musical, with the supporting cast permanently on stage behind the action playing instruments (with music composed by Michael Bruce,) as well as providing some of the props and sound effects. In a couple of the more surreal moments, Samuel Townsend's cop doubles as a barking seal Maude has stolen from a zoo, and Caine's operatic singing morphs into a police siren.
It's a risky approach that threatens to make the story more twee than it already is, but for me it pays off: To start with the play feels creakily dated, but it builds into a gently entertaining period piece with a hint of a serious underside - it's heavily implied that Maude's a Holocaust survivor, and that her philosophy of embracing life and possibilities comes from this experience. It's not earth-shettering and the production could do with some tightening up and building its energy - it's still quite early in its run - but it has a good mix of funny, sad and moving moments along with a couple of musical interludes, making for a diverting couple of hours.
Harold and Maude by Colin Higgins is booking until the 31st of March at the Charing Cross Theatre.
Running time: 2 hours 15 minutes including interval.
Photo credit: Darren Bell.