Court's 'mind-blowing' Hedwig show 'absolutely sizzles'
Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Court Theatre, 11 May to June 1. Reviewed by Patrick Shepherd.
Right from the outset as the eponymous heroine flew in astride a rocket, this was a full-frontal, slap-in-the-face deliciously dark fairground ride that barely let up.
Personifying the confusion and hope of 1990s Berlin in the wake of post-unification Germany, Hedwig reels from a botched gender reassignment operation and failed romances in the search to find her "other half", rather like that once-fractured city did.
Very much in the tradition of Berlin cabaret, this show absolutely sizzles, with hard rock to pop ballads, anger and pathos all wrapped up in a plethora of double entendres.
Conflicted Hedwig entertains, provokes and teases, getting big laughs (albeit nervous ones as she steps out into the audience) but this is essentially a very human story pulling at the heartstrings.
Adam Rennie was stunning as the outrageous, strident and strutting yet vulnerable Hedwig. It takes a special kind of performer to deliver over one and a half hours of non-stop energy and still leave the crowd wanting more.
You really have to experience this for yourself, Rennie is extraordinary. He has a great voice, belting out the punchy songs like Tear Me Down and the bump-and-grind of Sugar Daddy, spitting venom in The Angry Inch but turning easily to slower, more sentimental ballads like The Origin of Love and Wicked Little Town with genuine tenderness.
As Rennie's sidekick, Phoebe Hurst (Yitzhak) got our pity, always there in the background but gradually coming forward for a powerful solo slot in The Long Grift and the duets Exquisite Corpse and Midnight Radio. Hurst has a beautifully pure voice but can scream with the best of them.
The 4-piece rock band of Cameron Burnett, Tim Heeringa, Tyler Robbins and Emily Farrell were excellent and also looked the part as moody punks.
Luke Di Somma's musical direction was spot on, as usual. This type of stuff is his playground where he aces it every time.
Director Michael Lee Porter has assembled a fine team here and produced another mind-blowing show.
The set made good use of the space, from the graffitied wall to the cavernous backstage. I loved the animated sequence on the gauze, and the dilapidated Mercedes and packing boxes gave Rennie another dimension to range over.
My young guru of modern musical theatre, Meghan, was very impressed, her verdict being that it was very faithful to the original and that the largely improvised script situating it in Christchurch worked, with plenty of great references, the town planner's coffee order getting one of the biggest reactions.