Contemporary short fiction, poetry and more

Monthly Archives: July 2016

Review: The Addams Family at Leeds City Varieties, 29 July 2016

This production is two, related musical comedies by the City Varieties Youth Theatre, directed by Lizi Patch. I have only seen one of them. I have seen the evening performance, in which the major roles are played by the age 16+ cast. I have not seen the matinee performance, in which the major roles are played by the age 12-15 cast. In other words, some members of the 12-15 cast have to play two roles.

The City Varieties has a fairly small stage, and is an intimate theatre, even if you are sitting in the circle, as my wife, Valerie, and I were. The set was basic, with back-drops featuring gravestones, or stone columns, or windows, lifted and lowered throughout the play, with a variety of lighting. A hint of yellow was added to most of the lighting, to give the impression of sunlight. Dramatic and gothic moments received white light with a measure of blue and ultraviolet. This contrast was used to good effect.

There was a traditional orchestra pit. The band featured electric keyboards (used to mimic piano, and sinister pipe-organ in a Bach toccata and fugue stylee), drums, violin, cello, saxophone, clarinet, trumpet, trombone, electric guitar, and electric bass (a 6-string bass). They were admirably conducted by Sam Dunkley. The music was of a rich quality which filled the auditorium without overpowering it.

Between the orchestra pit and the front row of the stalls was a walk-way which led off the stage, which was extensively used. It was not very wide, but nobody fell off it, in either direction.

The show opened with a scene played by the younger members of the cast. This featured cow-girls, cave-people, flappers, matadors, soldiers, flight attendants, and gothic brides. All these characters were the spirits of the dead ancestors of the Addams family. The depiction of characters from disparate eras from history, plus liberal use of cadaverous, pale make-up, gave the impression of death’s being pervasive over a very long time.

The main themes of the plot were to do with conflict: conflict between the Addams family’s way of life and that of the “normal” world; conflict between generations; conflict between siblings; conflicts between husbands and wives; internal conflicts between a character’s own perception of his/her self, and how he/she develops. A plot infused with so much dramatic tension was bound to be engaging. The advice about love and life-decisions conveyed by the play was, for the most part, bloody awful, but that did not diminish the entertainment.

Lucy Herbert as Wednesday Addams was the presence upon which most of the plot was based. This portrayal of Wednesday Addams is more conflicted than any I have seen before, and the conflict was brilliantly portrayed.

Garry Campbell as Gomez Addams had not just to deliver dialogue in a Spanish accent, but he had to sing in a Spanish accent as well. And dance. Wednesday’s character drives most of the plot, but Gomez had most of the stage time and carried most of the action. He looked liked Gomez Addams. He sounded like Gomez Addams. He was Gomez Addams.

Juliana Eigbe played Morticia Addams. This portrayal of Morticia was quite a dislikeable character, but she captivated the audience with the grace and dexterity of her movements, in perfect keeping with her dialogue, or singing, or the dramatic moment. And the way her character contributed to the resolution of the story represented the biggest individual change, and she conveyed it with complete conviction.
Morgan Handley was cast as Pugsley Addams: Pugsley in this production was a girl. This was a brilliant stroke. Her character plays out the theme of sibling conflict. Her solo singing contained some of the most potentially sensitive references of the whole play, to do with relationships and physical harm.

Daniel Hunt played Uncle Fester. Oh boy, did Daniel Hunt play Uncle Fester. Fester starts as the voice of understanding and reason, and in the end goes completely off the rails. His part in the last scene was full of pathos and tenderness. It made my wife and me cry.

Shauna McSwiney played Grandma. A businesslike performance, which might be described as, “supporting” but could equally be described as, “subversive”. This character knew she didn’t have much to do to drive the plot forward, and was determined to have a good time on everybody else’s dollar. Bravo. And there was, in fact, one key contribution she made to the plot.

Jake Throw played Lurch. What can I say about him, except, “Come to my arms! Come to my arms!” ? He was outstandingly the character that I empathised with the most. He played his character exactly the way I would have tried to play him. When you get cast as Lurch in a production of The Addams Family, and there are two or three actors on stage who are taller than you, you know you are good.

Jacob Bennett played Lucas Beineke. He played the role with aplomb, and was a convincing foil to Wednesday Addams. His character started as a dweeb, but the way he broke out of that mould was a significant part of the development of the story. Like Mrs Beineke, played by Gemma Armitage, and Mr Beineke, played by Newlyn Evans, these characters end up moving out of their original orbits because of the influence of the Addams family.

This production is further proof, if any were needed, that Leeds is still the goth capital of the world.

I have told you about the auditorium, the set, the band, the characters. I have not told you what happens, because I don’t want to include any spoilers.

This is what happens, in the end.


Love conquers all.