Queen of the Mist has transferred to London’s Charring Cross Theatre after running at the Brockley Jack Studio earlier this year.
The show takes a while to get going and while it is hoped that it is just slow to start, the pace does not improve throughout. This is disappointing, as Queen of the Mist has the potential to be an empowering tale of a woman doing something which no man had ever managed. Instead it is a series of repeated explanations as to how the woman in question relies on various men. There is little more than bickering in the way of conflict and the relationships portrayed do not have particular depth or nuance.
If the Queen of the Mist herself did not survive shooting the Niagra Falls in a barrel, there really would be no story to tell; so when the first act closes predictably in the middle of Annie’s voyage across the water, it is unclear how a second act is necessary. It is here that this story really falls down; the second act is laced with flimsy side plots, but nothing worthy of note happens. culminating in the ‘finale’ which lasts for a painfully long time.
The Charing Cross Theatre is a space with huge potential, however it is badly used by this production. Theatres such as the King’s Cross Theatre, The Southwark Playhouse and The Menier Chocolate Factory have given masterclasses in how and when to effectively use an unconventionally shaped stage or auditorium; this production has failed to take notes. Running between each of the four corners of the stage mid song and turning swiftly to sing two lines at a time to each half of the audience is not the way to use a space so versatile.
The music is beautiful and the orchestra are certainly the highlight of this production – but there is ultimately too much of it, with several songs being split across scenes with large chunks of dialogue between verses. This left the piece feeling both disjointed and repetitive. The cast are universally talented and do well with what they are given but there is a depressing lack of surprise, humour or content in the book. Perhaps some true stories are not supposed to be told as musicals.