Piccadilly Theatre, London W1
Re-opened 21 August, 2000

This musical about the Moorish conquest of eighth-century Spain is actually quite good; sadly, it's not quite good enough.

The story a web of several different strands of thwarted love, betrayal and revenge, with a determined, intelligent scarlet woman at its centre is a rattling yarn, with a dramatic momentum and completeness to match any Jacobean tragedy. There are some prime central performances: Julie-Alanah Brighten in the title role is much more than a pretty face and voice, Marilyn Cutts as the Queen conveys the frustration of her position beautifully, and Paul Keating as her too-loyal servant is maturing into a fine young musical actor. (However, Oliver Tobias as the lovestruck but conscientious King is too ponderously brooding.)

The trouble is that it's a musical.  The score begins promisingly, but rapidly develops so that whenever it seems about to become hummable, it veers off elsewhere.  The lyrics are even more perverse, varying in line length and grimly determined not to rhyme at all unless absolutely necessary.  So close to being magnificent, and yet so far away from it.

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Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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