The Alexandra, Birmingham – until May 4th 2019
Reviewed by Boo Wakefield
The Age of Aquarius has returned to the stage 50 years after Hair was first written by James Rado and Gerome Ragni with a passionate, entertaining performance. Written during the time of the Vietnam war, it tells the story of a group of hippies living in New York. In the tribe are Claude (Paul Wilkins) and his friend Berger (Jake Quickenden) along with Shelia (Daisy Wood-Davis), Jeanie (Alison Arnopp), Woof (Bradley Judge) and Hud (Marcus Collins). It follows them trying to wrestle the balance between their bohemian life of sex, drugs, racism and liberation with that of war and conservative society. Claude has been drafted and struggles with whether to resist, following his pacifist beliefs, or to conform and serve his country. When it was first performed, it caused outrage for its sexual content, blatant drug taking and nudity
The set is almost too perfect with multiple coloured streamers hung from wire fencing, supporting hippie tents at different levels housing the members of the band. The clever use of colour and texture throughout the performance helps to convey their hippie lifestyle and energy although the smoke machine did leave us in a thick fog during one number! The full cast nude scene was almost too subtle, staged at the very back of the stage with such soft lighting that you were almost unaware it was happening.
Every member of this close-knit cast gives energy to the show with each song sung with intensity but without outshining each other. Berger sets the atmosphere with a flirty energetic number leaving him almost naked within minutes of the show starting! Claude’s struggle is played out convincingly by Paul Wilkins and Daisy Wood-Davis’s sweet singing voice was perfect for the dreamy Sheila. Marcus Collins, Aiesha Pease (Dionne) and Alison Arnoop (Jeanie) vocal performances were particularly uplifting although it seems cruel not to list every member of the cast as all 47 numbers left you on the edge of your seat with goose bumps. The cast took every opportunity to leave the stage to perform amongst the audience, culminating in their encore number with members of the audience encouraged up on stage to dance and sing along with them, which they did with great enthusiasm.
It was interesting to see that most of the audience were “silver surfers” perhaps reliving their hippie pasts and thoroughly enjoying every moment of it.
This is a real “raise the roof” production and 50 years on, Hair still rocks!