Wolves in the Walls II

My seat turned out to be in the front row – there's a four person (two keyboarders, one electronic drummer and one sax player) orchestra occupying what's usually the first couple of rows – and I was directly behind the leader with a very very good view.

If I'd have known that, and how long short it was going to be, I'd definitely have taken my micro video camera. Problem is, I'm not really regretting not having done so.

On stage are four mainly actors and four mainly puppeteers (this is Improbable we're talking about here!) All the actors are fine, with one slightly less so than the others, but that may be down to sound problems on the night (everyone's miked up). The puppeteers are the real stars though and the highlights are when they're at work, with or without the actors.

As I mentioned in my first post, it's short. Not a lot happens. Short but good build up, slightly longer but still short (and good) middle, then a shorter still but ok climax.

It's a musical and you can see that someone's tried to do a West End musical set of songs, for the most part, in the expectation that the contrast with the unusual if short story, good sets (this is Improbable…) and sheer theatricality of the production (this is…) would make it fly. And it doesn't.

Exactly why it doesn't is hard to pin down, and I think it's the songs being good but not good enough: although they're played and performed well, they're all of the 'we need a song here' variety rather than anything particularly great, in either lyrics or tunes, and the best sequences are the wordless ones.

The comparison that I was left thinking about afterwards was with Into the Woods, where you've got a magnificent and complicated book plus some very very good lyrical work. Ok, there's only one good tune, but the end result is one of Sondheim's best.

Here, you've got a three sentence book: girl thinks there are wolves in the walls; wolves come out of the walls and chase the family out; the family chase the wolves out, some ok lyrics and some ok tunes. And I want more than that, I want to have had to take my brain along too.

There's certainly some space for intelligence to be added in or to play with the audience's expectations. When I saw the size of the score, I went 'ooh' and prepared to settled down for a couple of hours, but before an hour was over, I was going 'hang on, there aren't many pages left…'

What there is is done well – this is Improbable at work, so yes, at times there's a distinct sense of being in the presence of genius, but not for nearly enough of it for it to be in the same league as SHP or some of their other awesome work.

So for me it was league two stuff, but Improbable's league two is better than many people's league one. It won't be the best thing at the Lyric this year though – it'll take something truly stunning to better Nights at the Circus – and don't expect it to appear in any awards lists either.

Overall: See it, but not 'See it! See it!!'.

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