Anything Goes

30 November – 16 December, Theatre HB, Hastings

The 1930s is a study in contrasts. Frivolity and ludicrous shenanigans, yet so much keeping-up-appearances, mind-your-Ps-and-Qs, not-in-front-of-the-ladies. Our own vernacular expression of the era is a dichotomy too: dark days of earthquake, aftershock, recovery, coupled with an explosion of rebuilding, pride and celebration.

Cole Porter’s Anything Goes expresses this pull perfectly. On one hand it’s fun and silly mayhem, a ridiculous romp; on the other it’s a brassy, brash, carefully considered middle finger to traditional thinking, expectations and roles, gender, class, celebrity.

It’s a big demanding show with complex lyrics and score, rigorous dance sequences, and some challenging twists and turns. It requires a cast of all-singing, all-dancing performers and it needs to be fast paced and tight: there’s a lot of numbers to squeeze in and the comedy only works if it’s frenetic and ever-so-slightly out of control.

Theatre HB has pulled it off with this show, scheduled as a prelude to February’s Art Deco Weekend.

There is an authentic adoration for the era here. The costumes are spot on in cut and colour. The wig work, terrific. There are crisp clear stylised lines in the set that reference the deco aesthetic but only as a backdrop for the action: it’s not too much, just a nod.

Disciplined direction and stagecraft from Glen Pickering, with some beautifully delicate and understated mannerisms and movements, is coupled with clever choreography from Corinne Bowey. The all-cast dance numbers are outstanding. In such an intimate setting it’s a treat to be this close to the toe-tapping, shoe-shuffling, high-kicks, splits and tricks of this talented troupe.

The broad age range in the cast is satisfying and shows off up-and-comers like Nicole Brebner and Harrison Keefe as well as the calibre of the Bay’s stage mavens, from John Pryce to perennial favourite Kim Wright whose tale within a tale featuring Cheeky the Chihuahua is hilarious.

Performances from Matt Kidd, Michael Sharp and Alex Richardson as Reno Sweeny bring the production up another dozen notches. All three are professional-level talent and their chemistry together in various combinations is dynamic.

The dancers bring necessary scaffolding to this piece. A few have been seen in shows elsewhere and the talent is very strong but it is a couple of the younger dancers who shine out, namely Cameron Young and Amy Griffin who both bring up the energy on stage to the next level.

There are one or two weaknesses in the production, the leading man has to work hard to keep out of the shadows of some stellar supporting cast, and those in the tech box seem to struggle at times but these are tiny trifles that don’t diminish what is a fantastically fun night out.

Anything Goes has been performed in a number of variations, some of them omitting a few of the more controversial moments, but in this production it’s all in. It’s a cathartic outburst of chauvinism, where really anything goes, and it’s delightful and delicious.

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