Before the Night is Through at the Landor Theatre
The cosy Landor Theatre in Clapham is host to From Page to Stage, a season of new musical theatre – Before the Night Is Through is one of these new productions. It brings together a group of 1930s glitterati for a glamorous party in a secluded house, where things start to go wrong.
Olivia Thompson, who has written the book and lyrics, employs all the familiar tropes of murder mysteries – jilted lovers, money, murky pasts. Tom Stoppard’s The Real Inspector Hound is a close parallel: both begin with a radio newsflash about an escaped lunatic, both are set in a secluded country house and both parody the familiar murder mystery format.
Without exception, the cast’s voices are excellent and they perform brilliantly as an ensemble, especially when the songs build to full chorus conclusions. Particularly good were Katie Brennan as the idiotic maid Mabel and Jenny Gayner as Farmonica, whose ludicrously overblown facial expressions and movements capture the tone of the musical perfectly.
Composer Christopher Whitehead’s songs are catchy and conjure the spirit of the era well, showing numerous musical influences, including the Sherman brothers, Gilbert and Sullivan, and a chunk of Rachmaninov’s Prelude in C sharp minor mercilessly poached for the asylum motif.
At times the dialogue is very expository, with characters repeating things over and over. Much of this could be cut, and it would even out the pacing – with many long gaps between songs it is easy to forget, at times, that this is a musical. Even if the gags seem a bit forced or absurd at the beginning, by the end it is very difficult not to feel very affectionately towards the musical – especially when the physical comedy is ramped up to extreme levels and things turn completely mad.
The small space and the intimate setting make it easy to see just how much an audience expects from musical theatre: the cast must be just as good at singing as acting, the songs well written around a good plot, the musicians flawless. So a feat like this is impressive, with many genuine laughs, a chorus of strong voices and unrelenting silliness.
Before the Night is Through is at the Landor Theatre until 23rd February 2014. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.