Published on February 25, 2014 | by Holly Gilbert0
Theatre review: Stephen Ward
★★★★★For a self-confessed musical lover, this new piece by Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber prompted a certain amount of intrigue.
However, despite the credentials of the production team, Stephen Ward managed to sound like a hashed together version of the worst songs lurking in Lord Lloyd Webber’s repertoire.
With an opening line consisting of “I am Stephen Ward, your friendly osteopath,” it is pretty clear you are not about to watch a show that transcends the boundaries of the musical genre in a good way.
Set in the 1960s, it is based on the true story of society osteopath Stephen Ward who became embroiled in the Profumo sex scandal that shook the political sphere.
John Profumo was the Minister for War at the height of the Cold War and slept with young Christine Keeler who also was simultaneously involved with a Russian attaché.
At the centre of this, Ward became the political scapegoat and went on trial for living off immoral earnings.
Alexander Hanson’s characterisation of Ward lacks charisma and charm, but has a voice which startles in its tenacity and power. Charlotte Spencer’s Keeler is contradictory; though vulnerable initially, the naivety of her desire to “be free” is suitably misguided.
For this story to work as a musical, Stephen Ward needs to have a score of the highest calibre and a script that is both witty and intelligent. On all three counts this show fails to deliver.
The shimmer curtain swishing around the stage with various projections highlighting the changes in scenery provided nothing but a floating distraction from the contrived and complex world of Stephen Ward.
With only the debauched Mayfair orgy as a memorable moment, it was as much the leering man sat behind shouting obscenities as the underwear clad actors gyrating on stage that made this particular image stick.
Without a hummable tune to speak of, this peculiar production left me a little disheartened and with the distinct feeling that the scandal which led to Ward’s downfall would have worked better as a play.
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