Wednesday 20 July 2022

LATE, LATE AT NIGHT - Cabaret Review

 WHAT: Late, Late At Night

WHEN: 10 July, 2022

WHERE: MEMO Music Hall

WRITTEN BY: Kieran Carroll

DIRECTED BY: Robert Johnson

PERFORMED BY: Jackson Carroll

Jackson Carroll - photo by Thomasin McCuaig

The lockdowns are over and we are becoming brave enough to congregate in groups and share the experience of live entertainment. Theatre has dragged itself out of the primordial sludge it was flung into in 2020 and many a new and exciting project has hatched. For Kieran Carroll (writer) this is a new personality based cabaret to add to his stable of like products. Having had a bit of a COVID erratic regional tour, I got to see the show for a one-off performance at the MEMO Music Hall

I am familiar with Kieran Carroll's previous works Newk! and Dahlin'! It's The Jeanne Little Show. I was mildly surprised to hear the new project was about Rick Springfield but I was a huge fan when he was at his peak and I would literally crawl through gravel to hear 'Don't Talk To Strangers' again.

The show's title comes from Springfield's autobiography of the same name The book (and the cabaret) takes us through Springfield's itinerate childhood, the onset of mental health issues, his stop/start music career, his years at general hospital and the very typical post fame spiral which seems to happen to all white male pop-stars. That sounds a bit harsh and I guess it is, but it is hard for me to be more sympathetic based on this show. I will explain what I mean shortly, but I can preface the conversation by telling you this one man cabaret is 2 acts and 2 hours long. 

Playing the role of Springfield is budding indie music star Jackson Carroll. The casting is superb. Jackson Carroll (no relation to Kieran Carroll), has the looks, the energy, and the voice to pull this off. Or would have if the show wasn't 2 acts and 2 hours long. By the time I saw the show Jackson Carroll's vocal chords were intensely overworked which made the show pitchy and you could hear the strain. 

This is where my biggest criticism lies - the length of the show. Whilst based on the autobiography, what Kieran Carroll has forgotten is you don't have to fill a theatre show with random minutia. Late, Late At Night is not so much a theatrical cabaret. It is more of a verbatim reduction of the book. In all honesty, if you cut all but the last 10 minutes of act 1 and cut a good 10 - 20 minutes of act 2 we would have a corker of a show and I would actually probably remember that I really liked Springfield. This would be kind to the audience, Jackson Carroll, and Rick Springfield.

The strongest part of the show - and the reason the audience has come - is the music. I had actually forgotten Springfield gave us 'I've Done Everything For You' and I was nearly bouncing out of my seat when Jackson Carroll picked up the guitar and played that song at the end of Act 1. Keep that! Start the show with that! 

There are a few other tunes of his that I recognised from his early career but the truth is I was prepared to sit through anything as long as I got to hear 'Don't Talk To Strangers'. I did start to panic at one point that it wouldn't come, but it did and I will be forever grateful. And yes, of course 'Jessie's Girl' was there.

In the end though, Robert Johnson (director) and Kieran Carroll need to sit down and do some serious editing for this show to have an extended life. It needs to be shorter and it needs to give us a reason to care. Whilst the mental health stuff is addressed I was personally not comfortable with how it was portrayed - very trite and reductive which is annoying because that is the only way the audience will find a reason to care about a young white dude who got every dream fulfilled and then screwed around and lost it. 

Both the writer and director need to remember that theatre is emotional and visceral and not every moment in a person's life is interesting. Late, Late At Night is lacking the art of theatre making despite being full of content. In the meantime, Jackson Carroll needs to be very careful to look after his voice because permanent damage is not out of the question here.

2 Stars

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