Brighton Fringe 2010
The transsexual, internationally ignored, punk-rock songstress, Hedwig hits the Marlborough in Brighton, as SJC productions preview their performance before it hits the streets of the Edinburgh Fringe.
Any group attempting to present John Cameron-Mitchell’s cult production, Hedwig and the Angry Inch are taking on a supreme challenge. Not because the material is difficult, or the music particularly challenging – but because your audience is bound to be made up in no small part by people who have watched the film to death and know every note, every line and every joke by heart – and heaven help the company who miss anything out or don’t do it as well as the original! This approach obviously leaves little room for creating something original, but I personally don’t think it’s worth trying – just do what you know as best as you bloody well can!
Fortunately, one can only assume that the cast of SJC Productions’ version of Hedwig are also among this dubious and obsessive faction of fans, as this production of Hedwig was pitch perfect. Every line was delivered in the soft German lilt Cameron-Mitchell made famous, and every note could have come from the soundtrack.
On the night I saw it, Hedwig was played by a man, Steve Wickenden, but I believe they are alternating Hedwig’s up in Edinburgh, and a woman will be sharing the role – something I would be interested to see.
Performance-wise Wickenden was an excellent Hedwig – he is a great singer, and managed to deliver the range of songs – from screaming rock to reflective ballad – with panache and emotion. He is also a good actor, with a consistent accent as Hedwig and nice ‘cameos’ as the Sugar Daddy and Tommy Gnossis. In fact it was Hedwig’s transformation into Tommy Gnossis at the end which was one of the highlights of the show.
It is always a challenging moment of the play, when Hedwig loses it and flings off her clothes and wig to reveal the vulnerable figure beneath. I have seen it done badly, with little commitment – and this can ruin the show. However, Wickenden certainly had commitment as he writhed around on the floor, pulling off his 6 inch platform boots and little mini dress to reveal the raw, abused person beneath. I was just a bit sorry that they hadn’t included the bit where Hedwig pulls from her bra the tomatoes which have been masquerading as breasts and squashes them against her chest – maybe something for Edinburgh?
However, for all this talk of Hedwig’s performance, it was probably the character of Yitzhak who stole the show. Played by a woman, with a good face of stubble and beat-up leather jacket, Emily Simpson certainly looked the part. Sullen and unsmiling throughout, the moment Yitzhak spits on Hedwig was genuinely shocking. Her voice was truly fantastic, and as well as providing excellent backup vocals for Hedwig, she really proved herself with a short rendering of Whitney Houston’s ‘I will always love you’.
This was an excellent production, which I hope will do well during its Edinburgh run at C-Plaza. My only reservations, which hold me back from awarding the show 5 stars are largely to do with Hedwig’s costume, and perhaps a little fire that was missing.
Hedwig needed more makeup – pure and simple. She should be caked in glitter and mascara, with liplined lips halfway up to her nose. It was very hot in the Marlborough Theatre, which obviously didn’t help what makeup there was to stay on, but Hedwig needs to look outrageous, and in this show, she didn’t look outrageous enough. Also – on a more personal note, Hedwig needs to wear some tighter more feminine underwear! It’s easy to see up her skirt as she rolls around the stage, and I was left in no doubt that she hadn’t been left with ‘a one inch mound of flesh’ and was in fact still fully equipped! A tuck and a bit of toupee tape would make the world of difference!
The fire that was missing is hard to describe – the cast were certainly giving it their all, and I think the additional oomph required will come as the company relax into the show. Wickenden put in a few nice ad-libs, but could certainly do with more – they just give that extra something to a piece so many know so well.
i wish the show every success for their gruelling month long run, and am sure it will do well up at the fringe.