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Indecent Proposal at the Southwark Playhouse

Twenty-one songs (the programme does not use the term ‘musical numbers’) are included in this stage adaptation of Indecent Proposal. The said ‘proposal’, however, isn’t the most indecent thing about the show, which has a very flimsy narrative and raises more questions than it resolves. One third of the songs are instrumental only. Very few of the remaining tunes – the ones with lyrics in them – drive the storyline forward, and it is, for the most part, only in the spoken dialogue that anything interesting happens. Take the songs out, and there’s an hour-long play right there that would be infinitely more compelling.

Norman Bowman as Jonny, Lizzy Connolly as Rebecca, Ako Mitchell as Larry © Indecent Proposal
Norman Bowman as Jonny, Lizzy Connolly as Rebecca, Ako Mitchell as Larry
© Indecent Proposal

Larry Harris (Ako Mitchell) is either a multi-millionaire or even a billionaire (the show does not specify which), and is gambling away in the Oasis, a “casino hotel resort”, as Annie Poole (Jacqueline Dankworth), a resident performer, wearily describes it. The resort is in Atlantic City, which for some reason justifies having a song which Poole sings, called ‘Atlantic City’. Poole also repeatedly makes a bizarre assertion that her band should be disbanded. If this is really so, why is the audience invited to applaud them? If it was a joke, it’s not funny.

Jonny Caine (Norman Bowman) sings for Poole, as well as for others, playing as many gigs as he can because – well, it’s not spelled out why, apart from having bills to pay just like everyone else. A singer/songwriter, he is married to Rebecca (Lizzy Connolly). Completing the on-stage cast is Heidi (Eve De Leon Allen), who treats the audience to some actor-musicianship. The show doesn’t take long to reveal Harris’ proposition: for reasons not entirely clear (ambiguity being a running theme in this show), he would like to take Rebecca Caine (no, not that one) to bed, for one night, in exchange for one million dollars.

The motion picture of the same name spells out the dilemma very clearly: there’s a deep recession, both halves of the same couple have been made redundant, and foreclosure (or, in other words, repossession) of their house is looming. Thus, the offer of a substantial sum of money means they could become mortgage-free, with any and all unsecured loans also paid off, and there would still be plenty of additional money to spare for them to bring their dreams and aspirations to fruition. None of that context appears in this production, with a near-total reliance instead on the moral dubiousness of agreeing to extramarital relations purely for monetary gain.

By the end of the show, it remains unclear whether Jonny and Rebecca will remain together. He asks, “So what happens now?” and the reply comes, “Well, who the f—k knows?” That is the show’s lazy final line and sums up the production as a whole. It’s all over the place, with no memorable songs. It is difficult to have much sympathy for anyone here – when Poole is fired by the casino hotel resort for repeatedly not turning up for work and not duly informing the venue, I couldn’t help thinking that’s probably fair enough.

An opportunity to detail, either through song or spoken word, what Jonny and Rebecca would do with a million dollars, was missed. I should have kept a tally of the number of times “a million dollars” was said: the writers seem to think repeating that phrase was enough in itself, with no further particulars of any kind, to maintain interest. Spoiler of the year (not): it doesn’t. Jonny yells some final lyrics, and I couldn’t tell if there was meant to be any sincerity – are true expressions of love (apart from exceptional circumstances, such as a plane that’s about to crash) ever screamed?

A couple of redeeming features stop the production from being a complete disaster. The performance space is used well, with a bed that is pulled out from underneath a raised platform whenever a scene is at ‘home’ as opposed to at ‘work’. The sound design (Leigh Davies) is excellent, perfectly balanced between musicians and singers throughout. But otherwise, it’s a very bland and forgettable experience.

2 gold stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Everyone has their price, Jonny. I think a million dollars is yours.

Atlantic City. 1988. Jonny and Rebecca are very much in love and very much in debt. He’s a struggling singer-songwriter who spends most of his time playing backup for Annie at the Oasis Casino Hotel Resort, and she works part-time at the casino and for a local charity. They struggle to make ends meet but they’re happy and that’s enough.

Or is it?

When wealthy stranger Larry Harris arrives in town and offers Rebecca a million dollars to spend a night with him, will the lure of money outweigh the promise of fidelity? Will Rebecca accept Larry’s indecent proposal? Will her marriage survive if she doesn’t? Will Jonny stick around if she does?

LISTINGS
Indecent Proposal
RUN ENDS 27th NOV 2021
Southwark Playhouse (77-85 Newington Causeway, London, SE1 6BD)
Recommended for ages 13+.

Creative Team
Director – Charlotte Westenra
Producer – Neil Marcus for 10 to 4 Productions
Book & Lyrics – Michael Conley
Music – Dylan Schlosberg
Musical Director – John Reddel
Set & Costume Designer – Anna Kelsey
Lighting Designer – Hartley T A Kemp
Sound Designer – Leigh Davies
Choreographer – Jane McMurtrie
Musical Director – Connor Going
Assistant Director – Jamie Buller

Cast
Norman Bowman
Lizzy Connolly
Jacqui Dankworth
Ako Mitchell
Eve de Leon Allen

https://www.southwarkplayhouse.co.uk/

Author

1 thought on “Indecent Proposal at the Southwark Playhouse”

  1. You were far more generous in your review than i would have been. What a mess. Not a single likeable character, not a single decent tune, and the lyrics? Yikes. And who writes lines like, ‘See ya later, toots’ ? How did this ever make it to a full production? It would have been far more interesting if Larry had offered the money to sleep with Jonny. But there’s nothing new or original about this show.

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