Showing posts with label Kim Kardashian. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Kim Kardashian. Show all posts

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Review: The Marriage of Kim K (Greater Manchester Fringe)

Monday 3 July 2017
53two, Albion Street



On Monday, I was at the Manchester launch night of The Marriage of Kim K, one of the (many) shows being staged this year for the Greater Manchester Fringe. I’d been promised that the show would be the ‘Kim Kardashian opera’ I’d been waiting for – or the ‘Mozart musical’ I’d been waiting for… at the same time. I didn’t know I’d been waiting for either of those things, so I was intrigued.

Written by Leo Mercer and Stephen Hyde (who write together as leoe&hyde), the show takes as its starting point Kim Kardashian’s ill-fated 72-day marriage to Kris Humphries in 2011. Sort of. Kim and Kris’s car crash of a marriage is played out (stage right) through numbers that run the standard musical gamut from comic to heartfelt to tragic. But it’s not too long before we’re introduced to another couple – the Count and Countess from Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro – who perform their marital dissatisfaction in a series of operatic excerpts (and interpretations) stage left.

The juxtaposition of Kim/Kris and the Count/Countess is the hook that sells the show, but in truth it’s the centre stage relationship that really holds the play together. There is a third marriage on stage, that of Amelia and Stephen, a couple drifting apart as life pulls them in different directions. Stephen is a playwright, determined to produce something of ‘beauty’ (like a Mozart opera), despite facing constant rejections. Amelia has just a new job, and combats the stress of work by watching reality TV. Amelia wants to watch Keeping Up with the Kardashians; Stephen puts on a DVD of The Marriage of Figaro.

As Stephen and Amelia fight over the remote control, and bicker about their (seemingly) conflicting priorities, we cut between scenes of Kim and Kris (when Amelia chooses the channel) and the Count and Countess (when Stephen gets the upper hand). All the while, Amelia and Stephen keep up an impressive lyrical performance that is one part chorus, one part counterpoint to their televisual counterparts. As we move faster and faster between the Kardashian and Mozart songs, the tribulations of the three couples begin to merge, building up to finale that is both satisfying and heart-warming.

In lesser hands, this conceit could have been a gimmick. But for all its quirky premise, there’s something quite subtle and ‘real’ about The Marriage of Kim K. The writers cleverly avoid forcing comparisons between the marital discord of Kim/Kris, Amelia/Stephen and the Count/Countess. These are three different couples – existing in different times and media – and the problems they are dealing with have different causes and resolutions. Instead, the audience see parallels not analogies, being reminded (with some humour) that there are similarities even within a sea of differences.

The Marriage of Kim K is a sung-through musical (or an opera buffa, depending on which way you look at it), so it really puts its performers through their paces. Fortunately, the cast were more than up to the task, and all six of the performances were brilliant.

Photocredit: www.toriabrightside.com

Emily Burnett was vocally impressive as the Countess Rosina, capturing both the fragile sadness and the stubborn anger of the character. She was paired with Nathan Bellis, who was fantastic as the Count. I enjoyed the way that, while the Marriage of Figaro songs were initially performed in Italian, Burnett and Bellis seamlessly switched to singing in English when Amelia ‘turned the subtitles on’. This wasn’t just a language change either – the pair subtly altered their performance of the scenes to make the dynamics of their exchanges more accessible to audiences less familiar with operatic style (and to draw out some of those parallels with the other couples on stage).

James Edge played Kris Humphries, and his performance was a lot of fun to watch. Essentially playing the comic character of the piece, Edge brought a swaggering assurance and charm to the role. His on-stage spouse was played by Yasemin Mireille, who was tasked with portraying a surprisingly multi-faceted version of Kim Kardashian. The Marriage of Kim K isn’t afraid to shy away from the ‘vapidity’ of reality TV, so we had a charming little number in which Mireille sweetly sings an almost contentless make-up tutorial for her adoring fans, but it also brought out the humanity of a woman caught up in a situation that’s spiralling out of control.

The third couple were played by Amelia Gabriel and Stephen Hyde. In many ways, these were the tougher roles, as the couple sang out their bickering and commentary in tandem with both the musical and operatic scenes, switching between styles at the drop of a hat (or the push of a button). Gabriel, in particular, did a sterling job of harmonizing both Kim and the Countess, making an effective vocal ‘glue’ that held the two ‘fictional’ couples together. Hyde’s crochetty counterpoint, rattling off criticisms of reality TV and effusive (but naïve) tributes to opera, stayed just the right side of unsympathetic.

And perhaps that was what was so engaging about The Marriage of Kim K. On the surface, we have six characters who should be unlikable. Stephen is a rather pretentious artist, who has stopped paying attention to his wife; Amelia is becoming weirdly obsessed with Kim Kardashian. Kris is a dim jock who counts his biggest achievement as getting to have sex with a hot famous wife; Kim is a vapid celebrity who performs make-up tutorials and plans to cheat on her husband with a rapper (guess who). The Count is a staggering lothario who revels in humiliating his wife; the Countess spends almost all her time listing the many faults of her husband. And yet… I didn’t dislike any of them at the end. There was warmth, affection and sympathy in all of the characters, for all the pointed lyrics and biting humour.

If I have one criticism of the performance, it would be a technical one. This is a very ambitious piece (musically), as operatic and musical styles are quite different – both in terms of vocal and orchestral performance. Due to technical limitations, this didn’t quite gel as well as it could have done (the hi-hat cymbal overpowered the string quartet at times, and Burnett’s opera occasionally overwhelmed Mireille’s singing). This isn’t a criticism of the performers or the composition, but more that the play at times seemed to stretch the technical limitations of the (admittedly lovely) venue. This is one play that really could do with a sound desk.

But this is a minor criticism, and doesn’t detract from how much I enjoyed the play. The Marriage of Kim K might sound like a bit of a mad idea, but I came away thinking that it all made complete sense. It’s touring a number of fringe festivals this summer, including Birmingham, London and Edinburgh, and there are five more performances at the Greater Manchester fringe this month as well. And it’s a definite recommendation from me.

For more information about the production and upcoming performances, please see the show's website.