Theatre Review - Oklahoma!

DANIEL Fish’s radical interpretation of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical is often exhilarating and occasionally mystifying. This is its second outing in London after enjoying a successful run at the Young Vic last year.

Oklahoma! is very much a show of two halves. The light-hearted opening introduces us to the characters but Fish’s staging is frustratingly static. The lights, trained on the audience, and colourful tinsel decorations are distracting. It’s quite possible that Wyndham’s proscenium arch and distanced seating have dampened some of its exuberance.

Everyone is talking about the box social. There’ll be dancing but the main attraction is the auctioning of the womenfolk’s boxed lunches; essentially the men bid for the women’s company.

Local cowboy, Curly (Arthur Darvill) has asked Laurey (Anoushka Lucas) to be his date. But Laurey decides to go with Jud (Patrick Vaill), the farmhand, instead. Upset by the competition, Curly thinks of ways to get Jud out of the picture.

Meanwhile, sassy Ado Annie (Georgina Onuorah) provides the comedy. She is also torn between two suitors: straightforward Will (James Patrick Parker) who wants to marry her, and a wily Persian salesman, Ali Hakim (Stavros Demetraki).

At the start of the second half, the show abruptly changes tempo and mood with the dream ballet, representing Laurey’s dilemma. It’s performed as a feverish dance by Marie-Astrid Mence wearing shorts and a T-shirt with “Dream Baby Dream”emblazoned on it.

Other innovations are two scenes that take place in complete darkness and Curly’s live filming of Jud which is projected onto the back wall.

Fish dispenses with nostalgia. Rifles dominate the walls foreshadowing the violence that erupts at the end. I like the audacity of his vision but the unsettling elements he introduces are at odds with the playful rendering of classics like Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’ and singalong delivery of Oklahoma.

Nevertheless, terrific performances and a cracking band cannot fail to impress.

Until September 2

Originally published by Westminster Extra