It may be 2024 but the ‘90s are alive and kicking
The British theatre scene is currently littered with film to stage adaptations, some good, some bad and some that make you question the entire foundations of the commercial theatre sector. Those that succeed triumph by championing the original themes of the source material, using the live performance to expand on what audiences already know and love. The creative team have understood why Roger Kumble’s 1999 film has remained a cult classic (Kumble involved heavily once again) drawing out its smutty and camp innards, wrapped up tightly in a ‘90s musical parcel.
Diving back into the cut-throat world of Cruel Intentions, a place in which adolescent hormones pollute the air, we see step-siblings Sebastian Valmont and Kathryn Merteuil plot a savage bet to see whether serial seducer Sebastian can sleep with the innocent daughter of the new headteacher at their elite school. Naive lives are toyed with and unexpected emotions are fought as the two heads of the teenage social bubble fight for dominance. The Other Palace has found a thematic successor to the long-running Heathers in this horny and guiltless musical romp.
Jordan Ross, Lindsey Rosin and Roger Kumble and written a compact script that hurtles through the events of the film, each scene treated to a classic ‘90s banger to match the vibe - think NYSYNC, Britney and Christina Aguilera. Of course, like with most jukebox musicals the songs are never quite a perfect fit for the moment and some are far less forced than others but there is no doubt that the song choices neatly align with the emotions at play - Josh Barnett and Barney Wilkinson’s renditions of the Spice Girls’s ‘Wannabe’ and Jess Buckby’s simply unique version of ‘No Scrubs’ both comedic highlights. The entire cast brought new life to these nostalgia-infused songs with leads Rhianne-Louise McCaulsky and Daniel Bravo knocking song after song out of the park - what is not to love?
McCaulsky brings a fiery power to the role of Kathryn, ever controlling the pawns beneath her. Her presence is magnetic especially when going toe to toe with Bravo’s Sebastian. As the show progresses he begins to soften, the internal conflict rising nicely within. As the more reserved Annette, Abbie Budden does well as her worldly view is altered, a rare beacon of niceness in this vicious piece. The most innocent and corruptible of the characters is Rose Galbraith’s Cecile Caldwell. Galbraith thrives in the blinkered humour of the role. Wide-eyed and malleable, she is easily manipulated but steals most of the scenes she appears - a wildly impressive professional debut.
Featuring a simple revolve the design cleanly supports the proceedings, leaving the sentimental songs to take centre stage. This show knows exactly what it is trying to achieve and nails the landing. This was never going to be the place for thunderous character-driven narrative but instead, we are offered an electric return to the decade of millennial youth, twenty five years on from the original film’s release. An absolute riot from start to finish.
Running until 14th April - Tickets
Photography - Pamela Raith