May 9th, 2018
Full of technical wizardry and a set that would leave even the biggest West End musicals jealous, Chess bursts into the ENO's London Coliseum with the grandness that it deserves. Instantly wowed by the opening sequence I settled into my seat and got ready for what was set to be a night full of big tunes, big emotions and performances that would leave me covered in goosebumps.
With West End royalty Michael Ball at the helm as Anatoly Sergivesky (a calm and collected Russian Chess master), we were never going to be in for a dud ride. Although Ball's rendition of the act one closer 'Anthem' was beautiful, and Cassidy Janson's (Florence Vassy) 'Nobody's Side' left me itching to fist pump the air, the real star was Tim Howar's portrayal of the broken and money hungry Freddie Trumper. Oozing with rock n roll with a gruff and gravelly voice to match, Howar makes you believe in his character from the very beginning. Through the heights of his arrogance ('Merano') to his melancholic 'Pity The Child' Howar embodies Trumper's very essence.
There is much to keep you visually stimulated in this vibrant production. From the visible orchestra to the montage of clips of the Cold War during the Chess playing sequences, you will definitely not be bored. However, I agree (and this is the only time) with the critics when it comes to the live video recordings of the actors during the production, it was too much. Displayed on hanging screens on the side of the stage, you can see every inch of the actors' faces, but I noticed myself getting distracted, focussing on these big screens instead of the action and wonderful choreography (by Stephen Mear) that was going on, on stage. Perhaps director Laurence Connor wanted to portray the media and information frenzy which surrounded this period of time but this what not clear and just seemed that it was used 'just because' instead of having a strong meaning.
The satirical edge in other parts of the production did shine through in all its glory. In the 'Opening Ceremony' Connor's portrayal of America's devotion to capitalism was perfectly demonstrated, brilliantly using the set and the ensemble as billboards and cheerleaders you felt like you were in the midst of Times Square with constant advertisements being shoved down your throat. Coupled with the Soviet version of the same sequence, it was incredibly funny and obscenely clever.
There is nothing small about this production if getting your money's worth is what you're into then this is certainly the production for you. Stripped back and minimalistic shows are popular at the moment, but sometimes you want a flashy, over the top and an all-out thrill ride and THAT is exactly what Chess is.
View our show pages for more information about Chess, London Coliseum.
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