Sea-Change Theatre Company give us a new version of Sue Frumin’s exhilarating, bold and ever-so slightly mad comedy, concerning the picaresque adventures of a Wandering Jew at the turn of the 20th Century, in a production more representative of the whole LGBTQI community than in its previous incarnations.
In the lead role of Ernest Faigele Fine, Dani Singer delivers a likeable line in innocent bewilderment as they encounter an array of showbiz villains and heroes on their journey from parental abandonment towards self-discovery, kinship and acceptance at the heart of British Music Hall. They bring an assured centredness to the evening’s rambunctious proceedings.
Stylised staging (shades of Steven Berkoff) allows the seven strong cast to deftly navigate the small acting area at the Kings Head, switching from land to sea to land again, as the action quickly moves from Russia to America, via Liverpool, Manchester, Blackpool and France. Great credit here goes to director Lil Warren, who keeps the frenetic pace going throughout, while eliciting up-front, high octane performances from her fully committed Troupe.
Tamsin Omund gives an energetic performance as the eponymous Dandy, who falls in love with Ernest. Anca Vaida is noteworthy not only as a ringmaster but for also skilfully embodying a serpent that comes to an unfortunate end. Worth a mention too is Sarah Warren’s Lulu, Fine and Dandy’s Glaswegian nemesis.
A slowing of the pace at times might have allowed the audience to absorb the many plot twists in Ernest’s episodic odyssey (characters often come and go at a confusing rate) but this could be first night adrenaline.
Anyway, it’s a small caveat. In a play that dares to merge song, dance, slapstick, snake charming, mime, shamanism, queer topics, music hall and a particularly winning version of ‘When I’m Cleaning Windows’ in Yiddish, what brilliantly shines through is fine, gender-fluid ensemble acting and a celebration of the historical inclusiveness of theatre.
KINGS HEAD THEATRE, Islington 6th – 11th Aug, as part of the Kings Head Queer Season
Images by Ray Malone Photography