Hair, 4 Stars

Hair
The Vaults
4th Oct to 13th Jan 2017

“The genuinely youthful cast will bring the original protest musical to life, in the intimate theatre seating just 200, revealing every emotion up close and personal through HAIR‘s drug fuelled journey.

HAIR changed the face of musical theatre and is still ground-breaking at the age of 50. HAIR
opened off-Broadway in 1967, and to open this new production off-West-End in 2017 is the perfect
move for Hope Mill Theatre’s acclaimed production, directed by Jonathan O’Boyle – as relevant
now as it was in the 60s.

1967 and HAIR‘s hippie-hood youngsters live as The Tribe, in the East Village of New York:
yearning to change the world, questioning authority and the American flag. They are wild,
colourful, free, sexually liberated beautiful people who join in protest and song – under the shadow
of the Vietnam War. Featuring classic hit songs: Aquarius, Let the Sun Shine In and Good Morning
Star Shine – and the story of youth and war still resounds throughout the world making this a
topical musical for the millennial generation. 2017 vividly sees the world protesting and marching,
fighting for freedom of speech; from Trump to Brexit via Syria – the core spirit of HAIR.

Like a mini Woodstock, from the moment the audience arrive, The Vaults is transformed into a
fully immersive 60s venue, with psychedelic, innovative creatives and hippie flower power, 60s
themed drinks and snacks – everything needed for a legal high. The audience then move through
to the seated theatre space for HAIR – the musical that changed the face of the modern musical.”

Review by Richard Lambert, 4 Stars

The Vaults have been transformed into a groovy bar complete with tents, soft seating areas, mood lighting – unrecognisable from the usual damp stark environment. A very large space to theme but this makes for an evening’s entertainment experience that’s unique and wonderful starting before you get anywhere near the inner theatre space. With details everywhere you look, posters declaring “Love not War” and even baked bean can lamp shades peppered with holes spelling “Hair” this is an incredibly well-loved installation so in keeping with a hippie commune and the show.

Bringing Trump into the start of Hair jars and obtrudes the entire setup of 60s hippie youngsters. Thrusting similarities between the then and now distracts from this wonderful show but thankfully this late addition is butted onto the front and then forgotten.

The Set Design by Maeve Black totally transforms the space. The walls/ceiling, flooring, band space all brilliantly designed to create an immersive environment for the performance and audience.

Lighting such a long narrow low space in the round with audience everywhere is no mean task. Ben Rogers has pulled together a versatile system of new and old lighting fixtures and pulls out vibrant psychadaelic colours amidst moody atmospheric looks, light and shade in all the right places. An experienced hand making the show look sensational and bringing out the features of the Set design adding interest throughout the show.

The costumes are “authentic hippy” – barefoot, beads, bare chested, long hair. With choreography (William Whelton) to match the mood and style there’s energy and surprsing speed of movement in such a small space. Delivered from a perfectly cast set of young performers (Ben Newsome casting). Every performer stands out and impresses but the star of the show is the chiselled Robert Metson playing Claude and the incredibly charismatic Andy Coxon playing Berger. Vocals to die for with well known songs and to name just a few: Aquarius, Ain’t Got No Grass, Hair, Be-in Hare Krishna, Where do I go, Good Morning Starshine, Let the Sun Shine In you’ll be humming along and tapping your toes all the way home.

The story is a little dated and thin, but the music more than makes up for this. Timeless catchy songs you’ll know.

And then there’s “that” scene that goes into the interval. Anyone going to see Hair knows that the cast get their clothes off. It represents free love, anti-establishment, sex, drugs, free spirit, and protestation. it goes hand in hand with CND and what we’d now term eco and green. Any performer auditioniong for Hair knows they’ll be getting their clothes off. The problem here is that Jonathan O’Boyle has them walking away from the audience as they take their clothes off, they clump like a selfie in a line as far away as possible from the audience, they line up while singing, turn around for a few moments before a blackout and there you have it. You gawp at the production that got the cast naked. It’s embarrasingly staged, it’s awkward, yes you’ll briefly see their bits like you do in the Full Monty. But it’s no longer a big deal in theatre. And if you’re hippies sticking your fingers up to convention then you’d be dancing around naked, high on fun or drugs or just enjoying life. You would not be posed static like a Charlies Angel poster. The cast are brave but this staging is more suited to middle-England, mining community, rural acceptability. Go see Le Grand Mort, Coming Clean, Consumables, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof where the cast excel with unabashed performing and move around while naked like real people do. It should take you into the interval on a high but instead makes you feel rather awkward having just looked at a clump of naked actors. A photo finish for no cameras.

The venue is very hot! With a clothing optional performance coming up you might prefer to go that night. There are also seats at the back of the room that are higher up the rake and therefore much hotter, plus they’re a long way from the action. This is one venue where it’s definitely worth booking early and paying a little more to be on the side seats or down front.

An evening out that’s a fab experience that includes stylish musical theatre at its core!

Photo credit Claire Bilyard

TUESDAY to SUNDAY (no performances on a Monday)
11 October – 3 December
Tuesday – Friday: 7.30pm
Saturday: 7.00pm (the performance on Saturday 11/11/17 only is at 6pm)
Thursday, Saturday & Sunday: 3.00pm
Final booking period performances: TUESDAY to SUNDAY (no performances on a Monday)
4 December- 13 January 2018
Tuesday – Saturday: 7.30pm
Thursday, Saturday & Sunday: 3.00pm
NO performance on Christmas Eve Sunday 24/12/17
TICKET PRICES: £25 – £50
Age recommendation: 14+ (this show contains nudity)
BOX OFFICE: 020 7401 9603
WEBSITE: www.hair50.com
TWITTER: @Hair50London

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