With eight lyricists combining to create the libretto for a new musical based on a Tennessee Williams short play, you’d think there would be more than enough meat to get your teeth into. But there is something lacking in The Liberation Of Colette Simple, despite the great gusto of the singers and musicians on stage.
The play is only an hour long but even then the story seems a bit stretched. The title, changed from Williams’s rather more evocative The Case Of The Crushed Petunias, delineates the main concept: a genteel woman throwing off the self-imposed shackles of middle class American life. But a concept doesn’t make a story and Colette’s transformation from uptight shop-keeper to goodtime gal is too lightly sketched to properly compel. Which means the show ends up being a set of disconnected duets between Nathalie Carrington’s Colette and Gary Tushaw’s changing roster of townsfolk, the whole thing just sort of dawdling about.
Both actors give it everything with Tushaw impressing in particular as he morphs from a canary to a beat cop and then the censorious Mrs Bland. Carrington is also great when she finally shakes off the Minnie mousiness that she has to express while her character is ‘unliberated’. The two actors have good chemistry and were the show billed as a jazzy gay cabaret, it would feel like an hour well spent (if you like that sort of thing). But trying to follow the story, especially with the lyrics drowned out by an overly loud band, felt too often like too much hard work.
This is the first production by Spatfeather Theatre inside Highgate’s excellent Jackson’s Lane, a lovely arts space inside a converted gothic church. The ambition and talent of the creative team is obvious and bodes well for their next show, when hopefully they’ve figured out how to mix a bit more substance into the confection.
The Liberation Of Colette Simple is on at Jackson’s Lane until 14 October. Tickets £13/£11 + booking fee. Londonist saw this show on a complimentary ticket.