Saving Grace, Triangle of Sadness and Danielle Steers In Concert
With some justification, social media has developed a reputation of being a bit of a cesspool – I’ve reached out before and had some wonderful responses during a difficult time. But I’m fully aware not everyone has had that privilege, and some people have even come off socials altogether following abusive comments and replies, with a directly corresponding increase in mental well-being as a result. Twitter still has its uses, whatever that Elon Musk is or isn’t up to: when someone had a spare ticket going to a sold out performance of Saving Grace, I had the day free, so snapped up said ticket, and even got to catch up with a friend who was also there.
Working in rehearsal rooms for a day job, one gets to overhear all sorts of things (I knew, for instance, The Great British Bake-Off Musical was a thing way before it became public knowledge) – and in the development of Saving Grace, something still not complete even now, the creative team and some actors rehearsed the shit out of a song about “the green, green grass of England” over the course of several days. But far from a wistful nostalgic look back to a previous generation, it’s essentially a song about the cultivation of weed.
It is, I must say, very amusing stuff, even if the narrative is somewhat far-fetched. Something about the artificiality of it, however, paradoxically allows the audience to enjoy it. Essentially, a town’s people come together to fight off a proposed redevelopment of their entire community, and while their own elaborate plans ultimately come to nothing, an unlikely and unexpected source provides them with a lifeline, ensuring a musical theatre happy ending. Predictable, then, in terms of narrative, but an enjoyable evening nonetheless – I don’t think there’s an awful lot that needs to be done in terms of dramaturgy, and the production team’s plan to scale up to a West End and/or Broadway run are ambitious, but not overly so.
There’s nothing, as I remarked on social media, quite like getting into the festive spirit than popping into the local cinema and opting for a motion picture called Triangle of Sadness. I found it even more hilarious, and even more bizarre. Here, too, some of the specific plot points are beyond ridiculous. The film’s title comes from the expression that male model Carl (Harris Dickinson) undertakes when auditioning for a fashion shoot. The ‘triangle’ is the part of his face between the eyebrows, pointed out to him by a member of the audition panel. He’s going out with the absurdly named (to me) Yaya (Charlbi Dean, who died before the film was on general release), both a model and social media influencer who gets paid substantially more than him. A long preamble is all about them arguing.
The funniest section is the middle, called ‘The Yacht’, which sees the couple on a very luxury cruise. Paula (Vicki Berlin), the chief of staff, insists the stewards must say ‘yes’ to every request, however ridiculous. Success in this endeavour just might, she tempts her direct reports in a briefing, result in significant bonuses. Their guests are insanely rich, which made me wonder what on earth so many of them were doing on one vessel – don’t the superrich all have their own yachts? Anyway, Yaya is an invited guest, Carl being her plus one, but as she’s expected to provide social media exposure of her experience, there are plenty of photographs and posts. Dimitry (Zlatko Muric), a Russian oligarch, wants to know if Yaya is actually going to eat any of the pasta she’s taken at least twenty photos of. No. It’s all for show.
But she’s far from the only one who demonstrates vacuity. Some other woman absolutely insists the member of staff serving her swaps places with her (such that the staff member is in a pool, and the guest assumes the role of ensuring she is comfortable). Then she wants every member of staff to have a swim. The head chef tells Paula the food for that evening’s dinner is at risk. Paula says her hands are tied: the guest wants what she wants. The All-Staff Swim goes well, but dinner does not, and the chef isn’t at fault, having relayed his concerns. Eventually, with a storm raging making everything on board rattle about, there is projectile vomit practically everywhere, and while I appreciate this is highly infantile, the extended scene of chaos and destruction is marvellously funny.
There’s a third ‘chapter’, called ‘The Island’, which is rich in preachiness: Abigail (Dolly de Leon), a cleaner, proves to be the most resourceful person when it comes to survival skills on an island certain guests and staff find themselves on after the yacht capsizes because (wait for it) a hand grenade thrown by some vigilantes goes off. By this stage in the film, the point has already been made that the superrich are a waste of space, and know how to get drunk but couldn’t sew a button onto a shirt or cook a meal between them. The ending came across as lazy and defying logic, whilst being inconclusive as to what eventually happens to the characters. And if the film doesn’t care, why should I?
What did make sense, perhaps unsurprisingly for me, was a musical theatre actor’s solo concert. It appears I dodged a bullet by skipping the press night for Hex at the National Theatre (Hex, Nick Curtis’ review in the Evening Standard began by saying, “is cursed”), taking up a friend’s offer to see Danielle Steers at the Crazy Coqs. Accompanied by Noam Galperin on the piano, Steers delivered an eclectic mix of songs from shows she’s been in, shows she’d like to be in, plus some festive offerings – it is, after all, December. Her special guest also happens to be her fiancé, actor Stephen Webb, who plays Frank-N-Furter in the current touring production of The Rocky Horror Show.
Photo credit: Olivia Spencer
“From Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar – to the birth of Jesus”, Steers beamed, having just belted out ‘Heaven On Their Minds’ from Superstar before launching into ‘O Holy Night’. It was kept lighthearted, despite a relative lack of uptempo numbers: deep monologues about what this or that tune means to her were eschewed in favour of straightforward explanations for including particular tunes – for instance, she loves ‘Somebody To Love’ by Queen, so she’s singing it for us. That’s a good enough reason for me. And it was more than a good enough show.