The venue has built up a reputation for its cabaret-style shows, which in recent years have focussed on various songbooks. But perhaps the format had run its course, and Playhouse artistic director Gareth Machin and MD Kate Edgar put their heads together to create something fresh.
London Calling manages to be both highly entertaining, patriotic, sentimental, wryly funny and thought provoking.
They have collected writings and songs from a wide variety of sources and woven them into two-hours of delight.
Three multi-talented performers, Glynn Kerslake, Stuart McLoughlin and Lauren Storer, fill the intimate space with songs of journeys and discovery, of new love and lost love, of hope and despair.
There is everything from Shakespeare’s Henry VI to Richard Sissons’ Wimbledon Idyll, from Baker Street with its unforgettable saxophone solo (played by Lauren Storer) to a version of the Flanagan and Allen anthem Underneath the Arches that forces the audience to think about what the words mean in the 21st century, following a heart-rending performance of Ralph McTell’s Streets of London by Stuart McLaughlin. Local audiences know him from many outings with Kneehigh, Shanty and most recently his own company Living Spit as all of the wives of Henry VIII.
Glyn Kerslake is a fine singer and pianist, singing Sondheim and John Gay.
One brilliant sequence segues The Clash’s London Calling with poems of war and terrorism.
It must have been great fun to devise and is certainly fun to watch.
The overarching effect is one of pride in our capital city, its history and its unique character, captured in words and music that sometimes skew your expectations. Truly a show with a difference for the holiday period, and on until Saturday 18th January.
Photographs: Richard Davenport