Sunday in the Park with George at The Other Palace
Sunday in the Park with George is one of Stephen Sondheim’s most complex and emotionally charged musicals. And this revival by the National Youth Music Theatre certainly doesn’t disappoint. If the fresh-faced cast have any doubts about taking on such a tour de force, they don’t show it. What they give us is an evening of sensitive, shimmering performances, and a peek inside the mind of a tortured genius.
As the elusive painter Georges Seurat (and his great-grandson), Thomas Josling brilliantly captures the artist’s intensity and obsessiveness; there will always be a part of him that is removed from the world as he attempts to re-create and re-order it with his paintbrush. In Colour and Light he’s mesmerising: standing before his canvas, he frantically transforms dots of colour into a harmonious whole, as his coquettish mistress Dot (the excellent Laura Barnard) wonders how she can get his attention.
Unusually, this is a musical of two distinct parts with the first act culminating in (spoiler alert) the untimely death of the painter. After the interval, shoulder pads and side ponytails are the order of the day as we fast forward several decades to the 80s. And while art has become more commercial – something to be schmoozed over and sold – the artist’s dilemmas remain the same: how can he or she truly connect in their personal life when the act of creation is so isolating? And how can they keep producing work that has meaning? Under Hannah Chissick’s assured direction, the two acts stand up on their own but also work together as a whole. She’s also mined impressive performances from all of the cast, some of which – like the incredulous American tourists and the philandering German servants – are incredibly funny.
Sondheim’s gorgeous score is accompanied by a fantastic orchestra, who can be glimpsed just above the stage. And as George assembles all of the elements of his painting together in the poignant Sunday, his sketches – carefully arranged amongst the scene’s assorted characters – are suddenly illuminated in techinicolour. It’s a poignant moment where we see the artist’s single-minded vision come to life before our eyes, immortalised within the frame.
Now 34 years old, Sondheim’s masterpiece still has much to say about love, life and the role of the artist. And happily, it now brings us a wonderful showcase of new theatrical talent.
Sunday in the Park with George is on at The Other Palace Theatre from 16th August to 19th August 2017. For further information or to book visit their website here.