Monday, 22 June 2015

Theatre review: The Clockmaker's Daughter at The Landor Theatre



©Poppy Carter

The Landor Theatre is a popular and well-respected fringe venue in London, yet after reviewing both Damn Yankees and She Loves Me at this theatre in a pub, I admit I wasn't wow-ed yet by the productions they put on (this may partly be due to the fact that these shows simply didn't appeal to me quite as much as previous ones that played there and I missed, such as Ragtime and Into The Woods).

However, after having had the opportunity to see new musical The Clockmaker's Daughter (for which I want to profusely thank the PR company for accommodating me well after press night) I finally get why people love this theatre so much, as it was an extraordinary production and one that deserves a long and successful life after the closure of this run next month.

The fantastical fairytale has hints of the likes of Pinocchio and Frankenstein as it tells the story of a lonely clockmaker who creates a machine that looks like a human and actually comes alive. His fabricated daughter, Constance, is an extraordinary clever being and before he knows it she can walk and talk and almost pass for an average person. However, to be on the safe side, and also partly because he doesn't want to lose her like he did his real life daughter, he forbids her from going outside. And we all know what happens when someone isn't allowed to do something...

Constance does indeed step outside of the house to explore the town of Spindlewood, but is it really as dangerous as the clockmaker warned her it would be or was he just being overprotective?

We've all seen and read endless retellings of classic fairytales such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Hansel and Gretel and Beauty and the Beast, but it is a rare occasion when a truly original enchanted tale is created as is the case with The Clockmaker's Daughter. Sure, there are hints of other famous tales woven throughout, but then the age-old ingredients to a good story such as good vs evil, prejudice and a touch of magic can only be combined so many times to create something that hasn't been done before. And writers Michael Webborn and Daniel Finn really managed to put their own spin on the themes to create their highly imaginative tale which feels like it belongs among the classics.

The music by the co-creators too, is something magical. Opening number Turning of the Key while set in the present time, manages to already transport its audience to a fantastical and adventurous place, before we've even arrived in the Spindlewood of long ago. Each of the musical numbers was beautiful, emotional and really suited its enchanted setting, but it were the group numbers such as the previously mentioned Turning of the Key and Spindlewood that were something truly special and gave me goosebumps as I watched them being performed live on the intimate stage at the Landor Theatre.

And there was not a weak link or false note among the crazy talented 20-strong cast, though there are two performances that were so sensational that they deserve to receive a special mention. First of all is, of course, Jennifer Harding who was phenomenal as the titular clockmaker's daughter. Her voice was breathtaking and on top of delivering a fantastic vocal performance she was tasked with the job of emanating the mechanical movements of a machine before she slowly transformed into a more human like being, a change which was astonishing to watch.

And secondly I'd like to mention Alan McHale who played Will, a character that strikes up a friendship with Constance. With a powerful singing voice and a mesmerising performance to match, it was hard to look anywhere else but at him whenever he was on stage. These two actors worked beautifully together and over the course of the 2.5 hour performance they managed to make the audience both laugh and cry as their story unfolded.

Those who follow my theatre reviews know that with the amount of productions I see I've become quite critical over the years and it doesn't happen often that I give a show 5 stars, however this new musical at the Landor Theatre is truly sensational and one I can not recommend highly enough, so it deserves to receive the highest possible rating I can give it.

Time might be precious, but The Clockmaker's Daughter is well worth spending yours on - book before it is too late!




The Clockmaker's Daughter is running at The Landor Theatre until 4 July 2015. You can buy tickets here.

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