Consistently Infrequent

November 17, 2011

Cool Hand Luke (Aldwych Theatre, London, 2011 production)

Filed under: Theatre — Tony Breyal @ 12:14 am

I just got back from watching a production of Cool Hand Luke at the Aldwych Theatre in Central London. Given that one of the reasons I started this blog was to improve my communication skills, I thought I’d try my hand at a review. The following are my general thoughts on various aspects of the experience:

The Theatre

The theatre was half empty which was not surprising given the negative reviews around the show but at least it meant I got bumped up to a nicer part of the stalls in row K, seat 8 which offered a great view of the stage though legroom was a smudge on the side of uncomfortable for me at 5’11” tall. Seats were slightly uncomfortable too but not more so than most other theatres in the area. The mens’ toilets near the front of the stalls were small but again that’s not uncommon for the area. From row K in the stalls it felt like a small space, close enough to the actors to make you feel part of the action which I really enjoyed. It’s not a bad theatre but I didn’t feel in awe of the place either.

The Plot

Briefly, the story revolves around a former World War II American solder who’s been dismissed from the army for his behavour and on his return to America gets sent to prison for vandalism. Whilst in prison he becomes an inspiration to his fellow inmate for his unbreakable spirit, cool nature and ability to do the seemingly impossible.

The Production

There were some disturbing flashbacks of what Luke’s platoon got up to during the war which were difficult to watch and scene transitions were marked by a group of female Christians singing A cappella which whilst enjoyable wasn’t really necessary and didn’t really add much at all. Having said that, the flashbacks were interesting, the show was well acted throughout (special mention should go to Marc Warren who really does have the X factor which the role requires), and the singers were very good, beautiful voices I thought. My main criticism would be the (1) lack of pace – there were many moments I was wish something, anything interesting, would happen, and (2) lack of humour – given Luke’s cool nature and smart mouth I was hoping for a few more jokes.

The Staff

Didn’t interact with them very much at all but the young man who gave me my tickets did it with an enthusiastic smile and a warm energy which I rather liked (it’s amazing how little things like that can improve the theatre experience though sadly it doesn’t happen as often as one might hope).

The Audiance

People who feel the need to check their mobile phones every 10 minutes or so shouldn’t be allowed in the theatre. The screen is bright and distracting. Yes, there were quite a few people doing that tonight! Plus the whisperers should learn that the quiet parts are the worst time to explain something to your friend (shouldn’t speak at all during the performance if I’m being honest). The theatre seemed half empty which is always a sad sight in my eyes but it wasn’t surprising given the reviews the show has received.

The Verdict

To be honest, I thought about leaving the theatre at the interval because I wasn’t really invested in the play but I always hope that maybe it’ll get better in the second act for those situations, plus I didn’t want to loose out on the money I’d already paid.  The performers were great but the writing was, to me, sluggish. Overall I would say it was below average but the actors still did a great job. Cool Hand Luke will end its run this week and it’s not something I’d recommend. Hmm, I feel like a bit of a git for writing that last line but I can’t think of a politer way of saying it in a review setting like this. Looking for “Cool Hand Luke” on twitter would suggest that other people enjoyed it a great deal (with particular praise, and lust, for Marc Warren it would seem). So whilst I may not think it was great, seems others might have done!

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