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The Theatreguide.London Review

The Vault   Autumn 2017

Donald Trump opens this fiftieth anniversary production of the musical Hair. 

There is the ominous sound of a helicopter you can associate with the film Apocalypse Now and then Trump is declared President. His voice booms out: 'Bomb the lot of them.' 

That is the extent of the show's connection to contemporary politics. But curiously the production has also forgotten the politics that generated the show in the 1960s. 

It was written, performed and watched by people whose friends and family were being pointlessly slaughtered in Vietnam, and whose every lifestyle deviation was being treated as if it was a crime against society. 

This production ditches the politics and gives us a fine retro style Hair. The songs are great, the voices are stunning and everybody looks wonderful. 

Andy Coxon as Berger is a charismatic bad boy, sitting on the knee of an audience member, feeling anotherís head, and constantly moving. 

Robert Metson as Claude has a singing voice you could listen to all day, but he doesn't know what to do with the character. Claude is described as Aquarius, the dawning of a new age and the hope of the future. There can be outrage when he is destroyed by US government criminality. 

But since Robert Metson has played him as a laid back non-entity it is difficult to feel the US government has done much damage to the future. 

The production's lack of political sensitivity to the show also impacts on the sound. Occasionally they let the meaning of the words breathe and it is hard to fault the final moving sequence ending with Let the Sun Shine In. 

But the show is generally a wall of sound. The Vault's acoustics may be partially responsible, but more likely they forgot it wasn't a jukebox musical and that it had things to say about race, class and women's liberation. 

And, given Hair usually makes Sheila (Laura Johnson) its Joan of Arc, a clear-sighted leader of the anti-war struggle, why were the women in this production given such a back seat? Were they trying to turn back the clock on Women's Liberation? 

The final scene is impressive and is usually telling about a production's political perspective on today.

In 2003 as the UK/US invaded Iraq, a revival in Edinburgh had Let the Sun Shine in sung by marching protesters, clenched fists in the air, defiantly determined to shake the system. 

A few years later the Gate Theatre in London's pessimistic version turned the song into the tormented cries of a pile of bodies tangled on the floor. 

This production has the cast huddled together in their winter coats, arms outstretched in a desperate plea to let the sun shine in. 

It is a plea some of the critics shared as they escaped from what is a fine bit of retro that is technically brilliant. But where is its soul?

Keith McKenna

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Review -  Hair - The Vault  2017

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