Review – Blues in the Night, Kiln Theatre

Thursday 1 August 2019

Slightly off putting to visit The Kiln in a heatwave but that’s what we did. Yes, that was last week. We’re hardly quick out of the traps here.

This was our first visit since the the theatre’s new look and peculiar re-branding. We had something of a chequered history with it in its Tricycle days, forever banging on about its unreserved seating policy. Now you can reserve a specific seat, though when we booked they still hadn’t worked out a seating plan so the theatre took it upon themselves to select our seats for us at a later stage. A very queer way to operate if you ask us.

Anyhoo. Good seats, good sightlines and all nice and cool inside. Though the bar needs to get its act together. We gave up waiting to be served during the unnecessary interval and hydrated with water. Can you imagine?

We say unnecessary interval as Blues in the Night is a 2 hour revue conceived by Sheldon Epps including a 20 minute interval. It could have all been done and dusted much more speedily without a break spent trying to catch the eye of bar people who seemed to have no idea who should be served first. The show itself has a cabaret vibe that made us feel we should have been having something strong and wet served to us at a table. Possibly as we puffed on cheroots.

So what’s it about then? Nothing at all really. If you come looking for a plot you’ll still be here long after the audience has departed. Four residents of a seedy Chicago hotel in the 1930s muse on their loves and lives whilst dispatching 26 bluesy torch numbers from the likes of Bessie Smith, Duke Ellington, Johnny Mercer and Harold Arlen. Not that the Whinger-approved performers don’t dispatch them all very capably. Debbie Kurup is the glam drug-addled one, Gemma Sutton represents youth and the powerhouse that is Sharon D Clarke is an entertainer flicking through her showbizzy memories as she awaits a job and a decent wig. There’s a lot of moaning about how all men are shits; the generic all-round cad comes in the shape of the wonderful Clive Rowe. The fact that they’re listed as The Woman, The Girl, The Lady, and The Man probably should have rung a few alarm bells.

The performers generally stay in their individual hotel rooms apart from when they’re enticed out of their private spaces by Aston New and Joseph Poulton who wiggle and jiggle as a couple of twinkle-toed hustlers/barmen. The four leads each get their respective standout number. None stands out more than Ms Clarke’s superbly delivered and very funny “Kitchen Man”. But we wanted more to hang the numbers on. Why not just do a concert? The theme, such as it is, becomes a bit samey and we were left unengaged and unmoved. Blame that bar. Perhaps drinks would have loosened us up somewhat.

Ms Clarke’s wife Susie McKenna directs and the classy look of the show (design Robert Jones, lighting Neil Austin, costumes Lotte Collett) and the reviews suggest it’ll end up in the West End. But since Clarke’s Death of A Salesman transfer leaves her unavailable for quite some time and Kurup has just been announced for The Prince of Egypt it may be quite a wait.

Rating (no thanks to The Kiln’s bar)



3 Responses to “Review – Blues in the Night, Kiln Theatre”

  1. Elaine Says:

    I am sorry you felt this. We were lucky to be in the front row and were totally immersed in this incredible production. The performance was uplifting and highly enjoyable, and the whole audience rose to there feet to applaud the whole cast for there singing, dancing and acting. I have emailed all my friends to ensure that they all get the opportunity to see it.

  2. Lord Andrew Lloyds PPI Says:


  3. takes our rose-tinted ideas of the and places them against a stark reality, challenging our desire to simply leave the theatre feeling nostalgic. Everyone in the show seems to be lonely, bored, addicted or yearning. Most of the numbers are about an unfulfilled desire for romantic connection. In the musical s most emotionally arresting scenes, The Lady sings about the past, using Bessie Smith s Wasted Life Blues to express her pain and misery. The Girl tries to move away from her naif image, relying on booze instead. The Man is looking for a woman, but nobody is interested. None of the characters are satisfied.

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