Beatnik Love Affair: Sweet Charity At Donmar Warehouse

Sweet Charity, Donmar Warehouse ★★★★☆

By Johnny Fox Last edited 39 months ago

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Beatnik Love Affair: Sweet Charity At Donmar Warehouse Sweet Charity, Donmar Warehouse 4
Photo: Johan Persson

This is as unconventional production of Sweet Charity as you’re likely to see. Set firmly in the art milieu of Andy Warhol’s Factory, it’s so perfectly, silver-foil-wrapped acid-tabbed 1967, it’s like you were actually there.

Photo: Johan Persson

Artistic director Josie Rourke’s swansong at the Donmar has an end-of-term-party vibe and initially looks like she’s cast an old mate for shits and giggles. But Anne Marie Duff defies you to ask just what Charity Hope Valentine did before she became a dance-hall hostess… and her reading of the part has so much more anguish and desperation than you’d get from a traditional musical theatre performance.

Photo: Johan Persson

Hers is a curious kind of vulnerability that goes deeper than the chaotic female who allows her life to be framed and defined by men.

Robert Jones’s set is endlessly inventive — a children’s ball pit for Central Park Lake, phosphorescent toys for Coney Island, ladders for almost everything — and wait until you see how they do the elevator.

Photo: Johan Persson

Hiring a world-class choreographer like Royal Ballet’s superhero Wayne McGregor is a coup: the precision and energy in all his routines, from the frugging beatniks in the party scene to the edgy S&M hustling of ‘Big Spender’ is a constant buzz.

Photo: Johan Persson

Arthur Darvill is a delight as Charity’s buttoned-up suitor Oscar, a performance of pure James Stewart diffidence — and chief among the hip-thrusting dancers, the outrageously talented Debbie Kurup shows real class and demonstrates how, if she’d been the lead. this could have been a differently excellent show.

Fun, laughs, good time.

Sweet Charity, Donmar Warehouse, Earlham Street, WC2. Tickets £10-£55, until 8 June 2019.

Last Updated 23 April 2019