Thursday, 6 October 2016

"The Legend Of Lady Rock" by Sarah Walker-Smith
Nottingham Contemporary.
A modern musical telling of a dark and ancient Scottish Tale and when it is new, you have nothing to compare it with so let's start with the story.
Act One introduces the characters and the first part of the story. A story of Lachlan and his bride to be Catherine, daughter of the Earl of Argyll. The marriage looks almost doomed to fail after Lachlan confides in his servant, Duncan, that he only wants to marry to have an heir. On the eve of the wedding Lachlan says goodbye to his mistress, Meghan.
After the wedding, which gets off to a bad start, Lachlan starts to fall in love with Catherine, but one thing evades the marriage. An heir. Catherine's servant, allocated by Lachlan is Elizabeth, who takes care of her health needs among other things.Ten months later and there's no heir to his kingdom and he gets to thinking that there may be something wrong with Catherine and that she may be cursed. He needs to get Catherine out of his life, for good, and replace her with a wife who will provide a son for him. There's someone though who is determined to spoil everything for Lachlan....but who?
The story continues and all is not as it may seem. We discover that Lachlan's plan didn't go to plan and also find out who the snake in the Scottish highlands grass is and their intentions, and more importantly who that person really is. Lachlan in the mean time is spiralling into deep depression as he's still in love with Catherine, a fact that he reveals to his son, who is conceived with his third wife. But can Lachlan make every thing right?
The cast is made up of many well known faces from the local theatre scene and have been put together to create a wonderfully emotive and passionate piece of theatre.
Joe Heap (Lachlan) is incredible and I've not seen acting like this from Joe. I know from seeing some of his previous work that Joe is a good actor but this role was another level altogether. His Scottish accent was unwavering and very natural. there's always that urge to take the accent over the top and lampoon it but Joe got it spot on. A very emotive character driven performance.
Rosemary Cotter as Meghan the mistress has a wonderful voice and again the emotion in the role really suited her acting as well as her lovely voice. Her final scene is one of great shock.
Matt Wesson (Duncan) was another stand out performer and again, like Joe, I've seen a different acting side to Matt tonight and i love the light and shade of Matt's work. Another classy singer, which I knew from past productions but with this different style of music, he suited the role and the musical style. Once more a brilliant character driven role.
Lindsey Jaycock played an absolute blinder as Catherine. The intelligence of the character really came through as did her independent out look of the marriage. What also came out in the acting was the passion that Catherine has for Lachlan and her ultimate disappointment in the way it all ended. This cast are blessed with actors who have big voices and Lindsey is the owner of one of them. Wonderful control with operatic beauty.
Judie Matthews is Elizabeth, another possessor of one of those big voices I mentioned and one of the most character driven roles in the play, which says something because all these roles are very strong with a history behind them. great array of emotions are needed for this part and Judie shows all of them.
Robert Goll is at home in his part of Jon, Catherine's brother. Borrowing from his extensive Shakespearean repertoire, this role carries as much drama as any Shakespeare character, but no Scottish accents for Rob. Powerful and protective of his family and some lovely "angry" speeches for Rob to deliver.
I pick these as my stand out performers but you know what,the whole cast were just incredibly magical to watch, especially in the scenes in Act two, which i won't give away, but there was a certain eeriness in them.
Graham Ward, Laura Thurman, Doug Smith, Gareth MorrisMonique Henry, Ali Biller, Abby WellsSean Goodwin and Jackie Dunn complete the line up, creating an air of mystery at times and a wonderful vocal backdrop.
Talking of back drops. WOW! what a brilliant scene setter they were creating an expansive view of Scotland making you feel you were out there with them. The props were well used, especially the four poster which meant that Lachlan could rise above the demons that were haunting him. A wonderful tower with stone steps and a fireplace in the Campbell's living room created the different scene settings without having to change anything. the set courtesy of Mark James and Heidi Hargreaves.
I love the music, which is all new. Creating a wonderful Celtic feel and if you imagine a new work written by Stephen Sondheim and Andrew Lloyd-Webber, this is what you;d get. There were echoes of "Les Miserables", "Sweeney Todd" and various snippets of Lloyd-Webber came to mind, creating a classy, almost non-stop set of musical lovelies. Being new, this meant that you had to really listen to the words to get the story and that's where my only (mini) gripe lies. At times the music overpowered the singers and bits were lost. On first night though the music sounds different when you have an area with people in which bounces the music around so it's a testing time to get it just right. Saying that, it did not detract from the atmospheric and powerful music and words. I'm sure that Simon Carter will have this pinned down for the next performance.
It took writer and director 15 years to write but this was worth the wait.Sarah Walker-Smith has had no formal training in this field but she struck out with this one. Great atmosphere and wonderful songs in this show will hopefully spur her on to continue in this field, as well as her acting and juggling family life. if I were Sarah, i'd be very proud of what I had created and the cast she has assembled who did her more than proud. 
Musical director was Chris Rees who captured the whole Celtic feel of the show which was important for a play such as this one.
The costumes were brilliant and having wore a kilt in the past, i sympathise for the actors if this was the first time they wore one (so much to remember when dressing to make it authentic), and you have to watch how you sit or kneel, you ladies will know what I mean.Wardrobe mistress was Ali Sheppard.
The lighting also was responsible for the feel and atmosphere and while at times the spot had a bit of a problem finding it's intended, on the whole, it was fantastic job done by Nick Gale.
A really exciting and magnetic production with many backstage and production geniuses (is that the plural of genius?), an amazing cast with storytellers and what more could you ask for when looking for a completely new musical experience, and all based on legend.
"The Legend Of Lady Rock" is on at the Nottingham Contemporary until Sunday 9 October 2016. Go and see what drove Lachlan to do what he did because what he did was not all of his own doing!!

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