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Hair, The Vaults, review: ‘Performances so outstanding that the message comes across in super-technicolour’

PUBLISHED: 17:31 13 October 2017 | UPDATED: 17:31 13 October 2017

Hair 2017 at The Vaults. Picture: Claire Bilyard

Hair 2017 at The Vaults. Picture: Claire Bilyard

Archant

Hair’s themes are as potent now as they ever were: gender equality, lgbtqia rights, race equality and the threat of being dragged into a war nobody wants a part in. The first words you hear come from the mouth of Donald Trump. So yes, it is definitely still relevant.

Laura Johnson, Andy Coxon and Robert Metson. Picture: Claire BilyardLaura Johnson, Andy Coxon and Robert Metson. Picture: Claire Bilyard

“We were caught up in the Supernatural Vortex,” says Jim Rado, reminiscing about himself and Jerry Ragni writing Hair.

Most of this 50th anniversary revival at The Vaults takes place in a haze of weed smoke and hallucinations – so, “supernatural vortex” is the perfect description. As soon as you walk in, you are met with an explosion of flowers, banners and free love.

Hair follows a group of young hippie activists called the Tribe as they navigate a life on the street protesting the Vietnam War and fighting a conservative society. At the front of the group are Claude, Berger and Sheila, the first of whom is struggling with how to respond to his draft notice.

Hair’s themes are as potent now as they ever were: gender equality, lgbtqia rights, race equality and the threat of being dragged into a war nobody wants a part in. The first words you hear come from the mouth of Donald Trump. So yes, it is definitely still relevant.

The question is, when you see a musical that was considered outrageous in the 60s, how much can they do to reproduce the shock factor? Drugs and sex and nudity don’t turn heads in the same way anymore. And while there are some truly iconic songs, there isn’t really that much of a plot in the same way as other musicals. It’s about the feeling.

It falls, therefore, on the actors to deliver performances so outstanding that the message comes across in super-technicolour. And they do.

Natalie Green and Shekinah McFarlane come out in front with their sensational vocals; Andy Coxon shows prodigious skill and charisma in his portrayal of Berger while Robert Metson charts Claude’s crisis and indecision convincingly.

The greatest joy is when the cast come together in fantastically choreographed set pieces – Claude’s hallucination sequence especially – which they deliver with a huge amount of energy. An indescribable emotion builds throughout the course of the play and comes to a completely organic climax at the end, which will have you dying to get involved.

Audience interaction is all part of fun so I’d advise sitting on the stage seats or close to the aisle to get the full experience.

4/5 stars

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