Anything Goes at the Barbican
When Anything Goes first hit the stage in 1934, the world was desperately in need of a distraction. Still suffering from the trauma of WWI and the consequences of the Great Depression, Anything Goes, with it’s larger than life characters and glitzy set, allowed theatre-goers to escape on the epic, hilarious and luxurious trip of their fever dreams.
The 2011 edition of the show tells the story of Billy Crocker (Samuel Edwards), a New York broker who cons his way onto a luxury ship to win the woman of his dreams who, unfortunately, is engaged to be married to a lord. Also aboard the vessel is the protagonist’s boss, who is expecting Crocker to sell his shares and make him rich; “public enemy no.1” Moonface Martin (Robert Lindsay); and shrewd nightclub dancer Reno Sweeney (Sutton Foster), whose declarations of love Crocker turns down at the beginning of the performance. Hilarity ensues as Crocker attempts to conceal his identity from his boss while trying to win the object of his affections, whilst the captain (Clive Hayward) desperately tries to find celebrities on board to put his liner on the map.
The message behind the song There’s No Cure Like Travel has never been more poignant as we begin to emerge from the darkest time in most of our living memories. Our world was turned upside down and everything we took for granted closed overnight, so as things begin to open up we need an escape. We need to laugh, and we need to join together – from the audience to the lighting technicians to the leading ladies – in a celebration of the pure elation that theatre can bring.
The sheer attention to detail in the production is masterful. Everything from the night sky, which is unique for every evening scene, to the colour coordination of the Angel’s gloves, has been thought of and precisely executed. This is an interactive, moving set featuring an incredible ship front, cabin rooms decorated to suit their occupants and a lovely light purple bar that any of us would be lucky to visit.
This is an incredibly professional performance, but it’s also a lot of fun. The fourth wall is broken multiple times and the audience, the conductor and the light technician are all involved. During Friendship, in which Moonface Martin and Reno Sweeney join forces, start singing about how they have each other’s backs and promptly start competing for the (literal) limelight, hilarity ensues as they start rushing back and forth to push each other out of the moving spotlights. People are swinging from ropes, hiding in funnels and wearing dog hair as beards. The comedic timing is on point, everything works effortlessly together and it is an absolute joy to behold.
When watching the show, you get a real sense that the actors – particularly Foster – are really enjoying the performance and relishing the attention of the audience. Lindsay is hysterical and brings an impressive likeability to his character. Carly Mercedes Dyer (Erma) manages to be a campy caricature without being annoying, and Hayden Oakley (Lord Evelyn Oakleigh) is just splendidly ridiculous. The choreography is seamless, and it’s great to witness because it seems like everyone on stage is having as much fun as we are.
Anything Goes feels like a shared experience in which the cast, tech crew and spectators alike are basking in the exhilaration of being back at the theatre. The pandemic forced artists to create many innovative new forms of performance, many of which have been good, but there is really nothing like sitting in a crowd watching a live show. We all deserve a holiday after the year we’ve had, so come on board and enjoy the ride!
Photo: Tristram Kenton
Anything Goes is the at Barbican from 23rd July until 31st October 2021. For further information visit the theatre’s website here.