Review: ★★★ The Green Fairy, Union Theatre

Review: ★★★ The Green Fairy, Union Theatre

Premiering its first full production, after workshopping with Lucie Jones at the King’s Head Theatre: Julie Atherton stars in The Green Fairy, a musical about a woman starting to claim her life back through the lens of Absinthe told by actor-musicians.

Atherton plays Jo, who we meet at at rock bottom. She is struggling in her relationships, including with her own daughter, and lets alcohol numb the pain. Slowly, as she drinks the night away, after a failed attempt to connect with her daughter, she meets The Green Fairy. Similar to the ghosts in Scrooge, The Green Fairy forces Jo to revisit her past.

Artherton is brilliant as Jo, playing both the comedic elements of her drunken stupor in number ‘End of the Day’ to the more heartbreaking elements of her alcoholism in ‘Sticks and Stones’. Atherton proves she is a veteran of her craft with both her vocals and her emotional range. Whilst the remaining cast members may be less experienced, they truly bring their A-game and rise to Atherton’s level.

The women in this production all steal the show at certain points. Georgina Hellier as The Green Fairy/Eliza is a true standout, as she seamlessly moves between the characters’ both through her characterisation and quick changes behind the bar. Hellier’s chemistry with all the actors, but particularly with Emma Whittaker as Young Jo is impressive. Likewise, Whittaker’s soprano voice, alongside the stream of instruments she manages to play, is unequivocally commendable. Whilst Emma Kinney, as Jo’s daughter Wendy breathes innocence into her role, supporting the cast throughout with her musicianship.

Unfortunately, despite the talent and the stunning set by Katharine Heath: Jack Sain’s story can feel a little bogged down. Some of the songs feel unnecessary against the more standout numbers and Jo’s attitude at times can cause frustration rather than empathy. Meanwhile, Daniel’s ending ends up relatively uncharted and for a show that has a tagline as ‘A Queer Pub Musical’, the relationship between Eliza and Jo is barely explored. Daniel and Jo’s relationship takes up more run time and is more explicit – with the characters actually kissing, unlike Eliza and Jo. After the initial chemistry between Whittaker and Hellier in Act I, this seems like a real shame and makes the tagline seem a bit invalid.

With a little change at the distillery, the talent of the actor-musician cast could make this absinthe laced tale a distinguishably brilliant one.

Niamh Flynn

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