Inspired by the famous painting ‘A Sunday afternoon on the island of La Grande Jatte’ by Georges Seurat, and performed by the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, this classic Sondheim musical premiered at C Venues with limited success. It was unfortunate that due to technical difficulties, the opening night was delayed by 20 minutes, and even as we were admitted to the auditorium, I was unsure whether the opening sequence was Brechtian, or a continuation of the technical disruptions. This caused confusion later in the plot, where the lighting display at an art gallery fails and I was left wondering whether the actors were making slick use of adlib. Perhaps it was these circumstances which affected the energy of the show, as I felt that it was slow at times, and lacking something. It certainly was not an absence of talent, the cast were undoubtedly talented musical theatre performers which shone though in confident solo’s but I felt their strength lay in the ensemble numbers which showcased effortless beautiful harmonies, especially in the title song which was a powerful opening and closing number.
The costume was fitting to the two periods, which was important to distinguish the time jump in the second half, but even with the visual aids, I found it confusing how the actor who played George in 1884, wore a costume very similar to his modern outfit, and also played a character with the same name. It was also a close match to the original painting, and a replica of this dominated the scenery. Selected props were cardboard cutouts, such as the parasols, and even the dogs, which were painted using a similar brushstroke to Seurat. This was a clever aesthetic choice to tie in the actors blocking with the subjects in the painting, and was particularly effective in the still tableau of the aforementioned painting, with the exception of the spare soldier which was intended to be a comic tool, but it didn’t seem to add anything to the show.
The leading lady who played ‘Dot’ stole the show for me, but I was unconvinced by the characterisation of ‘George’ who as the artist ironically lacked depth. A common criticism of Musicals is the lesser acting ability, and sadly this let it down across the board, as it was not as strong but elements of comedy were mastered neatly, and the singing was to a very high standard. I think the company could have been more adventurous with their revival of this show, but it was a confident performance, if a bit dull.