REVIEW: Tell me on a Sunday (The Real Theatre Company)

Take that look off your face...

Left in a bind [by Matt Baker]

Take that look off your face...

With the right vehicle a musician can stake their claim in the world of acting. From Madonna in 1996’s Evita to Melanie Brown in the 2004 revival of Rent, the musical stage and screen is becoming readily accepted as a platform on which such musical artists may step. I was excited at the prospect of not only seeing the one-woman Andrew Lloyd Webber show Tell Me On A Sunday for the first time, but for the fact that Carly Binding was that one woman. However, with David Coddington at the wheel as director, this vehicle could be Binding’s tomb.

The fact that Coddington is not only the Associate Director of the South Seas Film and TV School which he co-founded in 1991 (the on-screen acting course of which he developed 10 years later), but is also the Head of the School of Performing Arts at the Manukau Institute of Technology is genuinely terrifying.

My heart goes out to Binding who has been left to, certainly not strut, but fret her hour upon the stage with some of the most superfluous stage direction I’ve ever seen. She is full of sound, but no fury, which leads to me wonder whether Coddington actually delved into anything to do with the concept of reacting truthfully under imaginary circumstances with Binding, because there is clearly something in her which wants to break out, but hasn’t been shown how to.

Binding has a lovely voice and it is easy to see why both her albums and singles have done well in the New Zealand charts and on Australian radio play. However, her vocal prowess is in a different league to that which is required for an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. Her belt is almost non-existent, and there is a lack of change between the parts of the story which are narrative and those which are inner monologues. In musicals, one sings because they cannot express themselves simply in words. However, they must be able to tell the story of the song without the music, to be able to deliver the lyrics as a mere monologue. I wonder if Coddington ever asked Binding to simply speak the entire show.

Musical Director Robin Kelly ranged between dogmatic gestures to keep drummer Adam Tobeck in time and shared smiles with bass player Graham Trail. Violinist/Saxophonist Alex Taylor, while taking on a recognisably skillful duel role, hits the odd note that due to the place in the composition and instruments from which they come is also recognisable. However, the band themselves are skillful musicians, and these issues are most likely due to opening night nerves and a lack of rehearsal time in the performance space. Backing singers Melanie Himiona, Aletta Johnson, and Milly Grant are invisible at best and distracting at worst.

Having enjoyed much of lighting designer Brad Hill’s work in the past, I cannot help but feel that he was also at the mercy of Coddington’s general wash. Aside from a spot on the desk stage right (which worked well) and a spot on the couch stage left (which didn’t), the entire show felt like a spectrum style screensaver, morphing from a tacky jazz-blue to an even tackier red-light-district-red.

A one-woman show is a challenge for the best of actresses, and Coddington has done no favours for Binding, leaving her alone on stage with no story or natural progression to help her drive the show. For her debut performance as a lead in a musical, Binding warranted much more than she was afforded. With the right vocal role (or even Kelly creating arrangements to suit her) and the right director, I don’t see why Binding couldn’t make the transition she genuinely wants and deservedly should have the opportunity to pursue.

Tell me on a Sunday is presented by The Real Theatre Company plays at Q until 24th November. More details see Q

SEE ALSO: Theatreview.org.nz review by Adey Ramsel

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12 Comments on REVIEW: Tell me on a Sunday (The Real Theatre Company)

  1. I found this review uneven and intellectually inferior. I have personally seen this production on the West End with Marti Webb and I thought her performance was punchy and lively. I saw Carly Binding in this production and found her slick, with an emotional impact which wasn’t overstated and belted out as so many reviewers seem to think should be done. I loved the fact that when she sang is was as if she spoke to us as audience members personally and I felt a real connection with her especially with ‘Married Man’ and “Tell me on a Sunday Please”. I respected the great ensemble with the wonderful and band and gracious backing singers. A very good production and this needs to be seen by audiences, it’s a very professional and moving production. Well done to The director and crew.

    • Dear Mel,

      If would behoove you not to comment with such flippancy. You fail to actually address what it is that you believe is uneven or intellectually inferior about my review. Please specify. It is clearly very easy for you to spurt forth your subjective opinion, however, I prefer to analyse theatre through a critical analysis of technique based on my education, training, and experience. This is not to say my own preferences do not influence my overall opinion towards a show, merely that my writing is infused with informed opinion.

      When trimming the fat from your comment, i.e. removing anything that cannot be enforced with anything other than your ad hominem opinions, you aren’t really saying much to which I can retort. For example, you saw the show on the West End, did you? Good for you. “Marti Webb [sic] was punchy and lively.” That means nothing in regards to any point you’re trying to make in reference to Carly Binding’s production. How was Carly slick? Please specify. You say that her ‘emotional impact [sic] wasn’t overstated and belted out’ (I would go so far as to say it was non-existent) and then go on to say ‘as so many reviewers seem to think should be done’. What is the point of this second statement? I never indicated anything of the like, so why are you making this point in a comment on my review? You say ‘wonderful’ band and ‘gracious’ backing singers, but you do not explain what is wonderful or gracious about them. In which ways was this production professional and moving? If you cannot specify your points, your frivolous use of adjectives is made redundant and consequently so is your opinion. Perhaps you would like to regroup your thoughts and try again?

  2. A reviewer writes an unbiased opinion of the work, a critic writes an opinion based on their tastes. This isn’t a review. Why is it that the lion’s share of the author’s words are aimed squarely at the director? It reeks of personal vendetta. Perhaps a failed actor who once worked under the director and is now abusing this opportunity? Extremely unprofessional conduct if that’s the case, but who knows? Certainly other actual “reviews” of this show have very few negative remarks. Was a good show as far as I’m concerned…that’s my critique.

    • Hi Andrew,

      Actually, by definition, a review (regarding a play) is a critical appraisal, and a critique is a detailed analysis and assessment. One informs the other. As I explained to Mel, my writing comes from my analysis of technique based on my education, training, and experience. Could you please specify why it is that you don’t think this is a review? Much like Mel, you seem too easily throw your hat into the ring without evidence of how you formed or informed your opinion. The reason the lion’s share of my words are aimed at the director is that the overall direction of the show was my biggest concern. You say it reeks of personal vendetta, then theorise why this could be, then attempt to justify this by saying ‘but who knows’? I would suggest you prevent casting such aspersions, especially in a public forum. A quick Google search will reveal everything you need to know about my body of work as an actor. I have never worked with David Coddington, and nor do I want to. I take my role as a critic very seriously, and there are plenty of professionals in the industry who would back up that claim. I would never abuse the privilege I have and have given credit to those I might not necessarily care for personally where due, and pulled up my own friends when I felt it was necessary. Other reviews having very few negative remarks is a moot point. You think it was a good show? Fine. You have every right to say so, but don’t attack my writing with baseless claims that lack any evidence.

      • Easy tiger. I didn’t call your intelligence into question like the last person, only your motive. I have no reason to disbelieve you, so appears I was off the mark, apologies. Googled you like you suggested. If you’re the same Matt Baker listed on Starnow and a few other places then you have an impressive CV…but it also looks like you might have been an ex student of the director. That’s a bit different from never having worked with him. Just saying.

        • I never said it was my intelligence that you called into question. I agree that you were calling into question my motive, which, as far as I’m concerned, is a direct attack at my personal morals and ethics as a critic. I have every right to defend myself against such unfounded accusations, so it’s a bit rich of you to tell me to be ‘easy.’

          I accept your apology, though it’s a bit disingenuous considering you continue to postulate some connection between myself and David. That is indeed my CV on Starnow, and as it seems you have read it, I don’t know how you think I was an ex-student of his. None of my training indicates I studied at any of the institutions for which David has worked. I do not know the man.

          Also, you still haven’t addressed why you don’t think this publication is a review.

  3. The man screams for attention like a petulant child and behaves accordingly. When you have no talent, you cannot relate to an audience. This is not the first time he has sucked a talented actor has been sucked in by him. Should have stayed in the sticks and played with his horse.

  4. What a shame this had turned into a negative review. I loved the show and thought the acting was actually really good. I thought the lighting was excellent and the show itself was entertaining. I invited my best friends to come and they were really surprised to see how Carly Binding acted and sung in the show considering she was a popstar. I know that my friends and I will probably see another show such as this and am glad to do so.

  5. This show didnt suck because of the cast, im sorry, and your darling little Carly Binding isn’t a little damsel who has been forced into a situation and cheated. While I have next to no love for David Coddington, Melanie Himiona or Milly Grant, the fact is that it is a shitty piece. It was probably the most mundane idea I have ever heard of, and it didn’t have a particularly unique or unprecedented concept to exonerate that. Why would Carly Binding, with whatever dregs of her so-called “fame” survive, possibly elect to be part of a show that covers the trivialities of a completely unremarkable clichéd woman whos only striking feature is how shallow and predictable. Its lucky I needed a ride or I wouldn’t have sat through the entire thing, I left feeling like a chauvinistic misogynist because i was just so damn irritated by every goddamn thing about it. So stop moaning about how wee Carly got shafted, shes a big girl. The moral here is, dont go sailing a raft across an ocean and then blaming the first mate, bosun or cabin boy when it breaks apart in a storm. They did the best they could with the shit they got. I say this, not as an experienced actor or critic, or someone defending David, but as a pretty standard member of society and if your lofty opinions seem to outweigh mine because of my status then you need to get the fuck out of acting because at the end of the day, performance is for the audience, not the egos of elitist thespians and unheard of directors. This whole review seems like someone with a bit of a hard on for Carly or a grudge against David. This review itself is petulant, and every comment on it (probably including mine) is precocious as hell except for Helen, who -while I disagree with her opinion of the show, gave an honest answer without letting their personal opinion of anything but the show dictate her answer. Good shit Helen

  6. Great singing, good direction and a bloody good show. I’ve been to three off broadway shows in New York where this show was suprisingly good . My friend who is a NZ actor living in New York (And been in broadways show as well as CSI) was over here for a short time and saw the show and said that he was quite impressed on the simplicity. Congratulations to the director, singers and musicians a wonderful triumph.

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