Inspired by John Ruskin’s quote that an angel who fell down to earth would be shot on sight, H. G. Wells wrote his novel “The Wonderful Visit” about an angel who finds himself in a Kentish village and is taken in by a kindly vicar. Chris Burgess contemplated adapting the novel but decided against it, creating his own original work instead and placing the protagonist in modern day Britain.
Angel falls from the sky, crashing into Ruth’s greenhouse in Clapham. Ruth happens to be the PA to media mogul Nick Brimstone, who immediately sees Angel’s potential and casts him in a new reality show. Angel is an instant hit and enjoys his celebrity status, giving in to his narcissistic proclivity whilst posing for the always present paparazzi. Yet Angel’s novelty status soon wears off and Brimstone changes the nature of the show to improve his ratings.
Marc Urquhart’s vibrant production features a highly motivated cast, dancing and singing their hearts out, and choreographer Adam Scown makes the most of the intimate space. The jazzy tunes by BB Cooper are catchy and delightful, with “Ruth’s Song” and “”When You’re Human” being two of the highlights of the evening. The story touches on many relevant issues such as celebrity culture, Reality TV and the pressure on performers to have the perfect look and therefore undertake cosmetic surgery. However, even though the show is marketed as a cartoonish musical, which is also reflected in David Shields’s imaginative stage design, the storyline is too thin and some of the humour is rather dated including an ethnic joke that took me back to the era of Charlie Chan.
Alex Green is a cute and sweet Angel but he does not have much to work with although he is supposed to be the protagonist. He spends most his time on stage smiling and being pleasant although his greatest dream is becoming human. His relationship with Ruth should be central to the story, yet not much is happening between them up to the very end. Victoria Hope is very good as the reserved, sensitive Ruth who feels a special connection to Angel and stands by him. Gareth James is a convincing and comic villain as media mogul Nick Brimstone who binds his creative workers with exploitative contracts and will hire new talent in exchange for sexual favours. Louie Westwood is hilarious as former TV star “Magic Pete” and a lisping TV Compère. Ann Dolling plays naïve sexy girl Maddie who wants to become a weather girl but cannot even interpret a weather map. Thankfully – or not – Nick appreciates her other qualities.
There are some very funny lines, such as “Serious TV is for ugly people”, many catchy tunes, and you will not find a more dedicated and enthusiastic cast, but the book needs some more work.
Reviewed by Carolin Kopplin
Photo: Scott Rylander
Devilish! is playing at Landor Theatre until 29th May 2016