Chicago, Chicago!

August 19, 2022 | By More

★★★☆☆     Promising

Greenside @ Riddles Court (Venue 16): Mon 15 – Sat 20 Aug 2022
Review by Hugh Simpson

Name Pending Productions’ Chicago, Chicago! at Greenside @ Riddles Court for one week, is an original and intriguing piece, full of vitality. Its strange mixture of genres and ideas does not always come together, but shows distinct promise.

Rosie Mackay’s play features Mackay herself as Lulu, a young woman looking for work who falls in with a group of pole dancers from a Chicago bar. Tiring of the abuse from the customers, the women decide to put on a pole-based version of the musical Chicago. Cue all-singing, all-pole dancing versions of All That Jazz and Cell Block Tango.

The cast of Chicago Chicago. Pic: Name Pending Productions

It’s an odd idea for a play, with its ‘let’s put on a show right here’ concept reminiscent of Judy Garland/Mickey Rooney musicals. It is even odder still in practice, due to its combination of cynicism and naivete. Questions some audience members will undoubtedly have about the subject matter are left unaddressed.

When it takes a turn into grittier areas, dealing with the abuse suffered by sex workers and making a plea for tolerance and freedom of expression, it is more coherent.

Nevertheless, there is an energy and focus that is highly commendable, and the central performances are full of vigour. Mackay, Jenny Duncan, Michelah Desnai, Eleanor McMahon and Iona McKenzie make up a convincing ensemble, whether acting, dancing or singing.

There is the occasional wobbly moment – having someone who is clearly using their own accent does tend to put the more variable efforts of others into sharp relief – but nothing to detract from the overall effect.

full of sparkle

It is not always clear why there need to be five main characters, as in such a short play it is not always possible to make them clearly differentiated. Mackay’s script, while full of sparkle, relies a little too much on cliché when creating the characters. However, the efforts of the performers mean they do come across as individuals.

At times a noisy cooling system threatens to drown out some of the male performers, but since they are little more than sideshows to the main drama (with Joseph Coyle’s oily bar owner a notable exception), this is not a major problem.

Directors Mackay and Regan Walker make good use of the acting space, while Jess Knapper’s choreography is notably strong.

There is a sense of the play having its cake and eating it; men are sometimes demonised, sometimes excused, and there is a possibility of reducing complex issues to ones that can be solved by a singalong.

That is all part of this being part musical, part drama, which is one of the things that makes it so interesting.

Running time: 55 minutes (no interval)
Greenside @ Riddles Court (Thistle Theatre), Riddles Court, 322 Lawnmarket, EH1 2PG (Venue 16)
Monday 15 – Saturday 20 August 2022
Daily: 15:00
Information and tickets: Book here

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ENDS

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Comments (1)

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  1. Rita Boorman says:

    Really enjoyed the show, the characters were great, portrayed really well, really got a sense of the story being told,
    Felt really well timed so made it easier to follow the story,
    Well done to everyone involved