Well, that was quite the trip. The 50th anniversary tour of Hair at the New Theatre was a full-on kaleidoscope of songs, lights and colours which, despite some excellent numbers and full effort, suffered from a lack of coherence and undeveloped characters.
The show centres on a bunch of hippies during the
Though it did touch on a range of themes like identity, tribe, love and exploitation, these were considered obliquely, needing to be teased out by the audience, rather than us being spoon fed like in more traditional musicals. The show was really all about evoking a certain feeling; it was a lot more like Terry Gilliam’s
Despite a very strong start from the aggressively camp Berger (Jake Quickenden), there was also somehow a lack of character depth. Sure, there were plenty of distinctive individuals, but I really couldn’t tell you much about them as people. This, combined with the limited story arch, made it hard for me to engage emotionally with the songs, which ranged widely in tone and tempo.
The songs, though, were, as one would expect, of excellent quality. Full of energy and accompanied by well thought-out routines, they were also supported by a series of clever staging tricks to keep the eyes interested. The singing was at times not as distinct as I would expect from a musical, but I assume this was an intentional choice to move the performance closer to a concert than theatre production. Certainly, by the end of the performance the audience had been sufficiently energised to join the actors on stage for a boogie!
Though good fun, I’m not sure I fully got into the vibe of the show. The long trippy scene felt a touch dated (and very American), the issues were interesting but not fully articulated, the music good but not always crisp. Perhaps it was just evoking a time and place too far removed from my own experiences; it certainly seemed that the wiser elements of the crowd liked what they saw.