PATRICK MARMION: Dance star's rock show fails to find its feet

PATRICK MARMION: Strictly fans only! Dance star’s rock show fails to find its feet

Rock Of Ages (New Wimbledon Theatre and Touring) 

Verdict: Let the people rock!

Rating:

Is God Is (Royal Court, London) 

Verdict: Deliciously twisted

Rating:

So it’s tennis rackets for air guitar, hairbrushes for microphones and ear plugs for health and safety: Rock Of Ages is back on the road. Starring the nicest guy from Strictly, Kevin Clifton, as the baddest guy in this Eighties rock musical spoof: Stacee Jaxx.

Yes, it’s all in the worst possible taste — and post-show tinnitus is guaranteed. The gleefully confected story tells of Sherrie from Kansas, arriving on Los Angeles’s Sunset Strip with dreams of becoming an actress. 

Falling for bashful wannabe rock god Drew, she’s seduced and cast aside by legend and love rat Stacee.

Splendidly dreadful: Rock Of Ages is back on the road. Starring the nicest guy from Strictly, Kevin Clifton, (pictured with Rhiannon Chesterman) as the baddest guy in this Eighties rock musical spoof: Stacee Jaxx

Let’s face it, though; no one is here for the story. The largely female audience on the night I went had clearly rocked up for the glam metal belters.

They’d come to heckle and howl their heads off — and did so right from the off (first up: Starship’s We Built This City).

They swayed along with Sherrie and Drew to Foreigner’s Waiting For A Girl Like You; and turned positively vulpine for I Want To Know What Love Is, when Stacee takes Sherrie on a ‘date’ in the gents’ lavvy.

And yet, the story keeps getting in the way, reducing the songs to snatches that rarely settle.

Joe Gash’s narrator Lonny could do more to keep the pace up between numbers, instead of belabouring off-colour gags.

Sweet and tuneful Rhiannon Chesterman lifts the energy as Sherrie; and Clifton is splendidly dreadful as over-sexed Stacee, sporting a rock wig, spray-on white jeans and winkle picker cowboy boots. But it’s Luke Walsh, as Drew, who stops the show, by holding a soaring note for what feels like a whole minute. Otherwise, Nick Winston’s loud and lewd production is too often too loose, and there are way too many willy gags.

Andrew Carthy’s Franz is camper than a row of tents. Maybe two rows. But he’s just about worth it for the line: ‘I’m not gay, I’m German!’

They may be having a good time, but it’s the actors’ job to cue us up so we can have a good time, too, and sing like nobody’s listening.

A cracking play at the Royal Court!? Believe it. Whether by accident or design, the flop factory has finally hit on something worth seeing: a twisted Tarantino-ish, Kill Bill-style revenge story called Is God Is.

Our femmes fatales are twin sisters from Kentucky who discover their long-lost mother is still alive, but living in a nursing home with dreadful burns, after their father tried to kill her 18 years earlier.

Looking like Davros from Doctor Who, the mother orders her girls to serve revenge on their dad.

What unfolds is a buddy story/road trip with the implacable logic of Greek tragedy.

Chilling: The Royal COurt has finally hit on something worth seeing: a twisted Tarantino-ish, Kill Bill-style revenge story called Is God Is. Pictured: Lawrance with Adedayo in Is God Is

That’s matched by Ola Ince’s snappy production, and Chloe Lamford’s cartoonish design — including a photo of a snaking desert road, emblazoned on a vast curtain hanging behind the girls’ fateful destination: a roll-on yellow house with teal shutters, somewhere in California.

Tamara Lawrance and Adelayo Adedayo play the faintly bored, brutally resolute twins.

And Cecilia Noble chills the blood as their bed-bound, pagan-godhead Mama, who demands they make sure their father is ‘real dead… all the way dead’.

That mix of dippyness and darkness make this show very niche, but also a twisted delight.

Boy meets girl at Aryan summer camp

Camp Siegfried (Old Vic, London) 

Verdict: Nazi cautionary tale 

Rating:

Siegfried was a fascist summer camp in Long Island, New York, where ex-pat German Nazis took their children for sporting, hiking — and political indoctrination — in the Thirties.

In addition to short trousers, brown shirts and Teutonic entertainment, kids were introduced to German culture, anti-Semitism and the cult of Adolf Hitler.

American writer Bess Wohl relates all this in the form of a holiday romance between a strapping Aryan youth and an awkward young woman with a passion for Latin poetry.

Bond: Patsy Ferran and Luke Thallon in Camp Siegfried at The Old Vic

He thinks he’s doing her a favour when he picks her up at a camp dance, but he’s soon head-over-heels as they bond while chopping logs, doing a spot of bricklaying and chatting around a bonfire.

She falls pregnant — shocking enough — but then really blows his mind with a Nuremberg Rally-style speech delivered on the camp’s ‘German Day’.

Wohl’s message is that humans have an infinite capacity for self-delusion that can easily run out of control; and we should all examine our consciences, lest we too get carried away. More interesting than that, though, are her two young characters, with whom we form an uncomfortable attachment — the idealism of their youth making them seem both loveable and vulnerable.

Katy Rudd’s spartan production is played out against a tall fence of reclaimed wooden planks, suggesting a nearby forest. It has the uncanny effect of making the story feel like a fairy tale . . . maybe Hansel and Gretel.

As the young woman, Patsy Ferran is particularly hypnotic. Her 16-year-old character, who has already had an affair with an older man, has a weirdly detached world view (she likens sex to ‘cleaning your ears’).

Luke Thallon provides the muscle as a cheerful young conformist with a ready smile.

And despite its warmth, there is an edge to their burgeoning romance (he calls her ‘dummy’; she quietly lets it go).

It’s a small-scale yarn for such a big venue; and in some ways is little more than a couple of character sketches. But watch out: it steadily grows to fill the theatre. 

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