If you’ve never been to America, or even if you have visited but would like to go back, then get yourself down to the Union Theatre in Southwark and take a tour of some of the landmarks of the USA that you will never forget.
See Rock City & Other Destinations uses various unconnected but ultimately linked scenes, to take us, and the cast of 13, around America where they face their hopes, their dreams, their fears, even themselves.
On a minimal set – a series of free-standing cubes – and overseen by the Tour Guide (a sort of supra-being that is there permanently watching and sometimes guiding the action) we start in an American diner before heading off to See Rock City with Jess and Dodi. After a driving accident which leaves us wandering about Dodi, we arrive with them and witness their individual reactions to what is there. The scene moves to Roswell, New Mexico and a young man’s belief in extra-terrestrial life. This segment was so well acted, and transported me back to my younger days watching Peanuts when Linus annually spent Halloween in the Pumpkin Patch waiting for the Great Pumpkin to arrive. There was that same unabashed optimism at the start which slowly descended into rage as it looked more and more likely that the ETs wouldn’t arrive after all, no matter how many times Evan sings “We Are Not Alone” right up until the point where gives up completely and accepts what everyone else has been telling him.
Always moving and never still, we go to The Alamo and join Lauren and her invalid grandfather (a superb piece of acting, both in his wheelchair and in a dream sequence by Neil Stewart) at the place where he first met her Grandmother many, many years ago. Lauren is 30 something; single and pretending she’s happy with her life “I’m OK in my single bed, And I’m OK with the novels I’ve read, And I wouldn’t have it any other way, And that’s all there is to say” In reality of course she isn’t happy and is probably desperately looking for love. Is it sitting there having lunch in the shape of divorce lawyer, Dempsey (and I agree with Grampy, what sort of a name is that?). Moving on we are transported to Glacier Bay, where three sisters – as unlike as it is possible to be – are on a ship scattering their father’s ashes. Whilst outwardly their relationship is pretty sour, the family bond really shines through thanks to the most humorous number of the evening “Three Fair Queens”, sung a cappella and with the strangest moves ever seen – don’t miss the penguin dance.
Two more places to visit and sites to see. First, we take the subway to Coney Island with two prep-school friends who are bunking off for the day. They are obviously close. They tease each other mercilessly and, with brilliantly choreographed movements, they sing my absolute favourite song of the whole show, “You are my …..” In some ways, the ending to this scene is pretty inevitable early on, but, the journey there is so well directed and acted by Richard Dawes and Barney Glover. In reality, the ending isn’t necessarily what was foreseen and honestly surprised me.
So finally, our trip takes us to Niagra Falls – I’m guessing the US side to keep the theme going – and we meet Kate, a bride who may be having second thoughts on the day of her wedding. She encounters the Tour Guide who, accompanied by the rest of the cast, takes Kate on her own personal tour of the ravaged Falls before she is offered the chance to dive in and take the plunge – into the Falls or into marriage itself?
This production is the UK debut of See Rock City and Other Destinations and is brilliantly staged. The 4 piece (piano, 2 guitars and a cello) band are excellent and I can honestly say that, for me, there wasn’t a bad song in the whole show. The Director has made excellent use of the Union’s superb lighting rig and, even without an interval, I was kept entertained for the full duration. A real gem of a show in SE1.
Review by Terry Eastham
Aria Entertainment & Szpiezak Productions in association with The Union Theatre present the UK premiere of See Rock City and Other Destinations. Music by Brad Alexander – Book and Lyrics by Adam Mathias
Friday 15th August to Saturday 30th august 2014
THE UNION THEATRE: 204 UNION STREET, SE1 0LX
Performances: Tuesday – Saturday at 7.30pm, Saturday & Sunday at 2.30pm
Tickets: All £16
Box Office: www.uniontheatre.biz
Tel: 020 7261 9876
Tuesday 19th August 2014