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Not-review: Painted Lady - The Princess Caraboo Scandal 
6th-Jun-2010 11:35 pm
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People who read this blog will probably think this was inevitable, but, I swear, going to two different shows in the same day is something I normally avoid. However I'd already booked this afternoon's matinee long before I found out about this evening's show, and as the latter is only having one performance, it was this or nothing. My friends Andy and Ian were going, and a quick glance at the avatar I'm using for this post might give you a "subtle" hint as to what helped convince me to go along.

Painted Lady - The Princess Caraboo Scandal is a work-in progress musical by Phil Wilmott, who as director has been very prolific in the last few years - among other things he made naked boys sing. Boys and girls keep their clothes on here though, but there's scandal of a different sort in 1820. This was a rehearsed reading of a musical commissioned by the Bristol Old Vic, and accordingly Wilmott takes a true story from that area and the musical has a strong Bristol theme - from a running gag about Harvey's Bristol Cream to a crucial plot point revolving around that most Westcountry of phrases, "my lover." Sarah Boulton plays the titular fake princess, while Daniel Boys plays Edward Harvey, the man who, rather against his will, is recruited to "translate" for Caraboo and inevitably falls in love with her even after finding out she's an impostor.

I normally term blog entries a "not-review" if I don't feel qualified to review it, but here it's simply because this being work-in-progress it feels unfair to pass judgement. But for an unfinished piece it feels very polished; the script itself is witty and slick, with some emotional moments that feel properly integrated rather than tacked-on to provide fake depth. The songs are catchy - although the three of us agreed afterwards that Jean's (Gavin Alex) big number, which may or may not be called "Shit," is in itself fantastic but felt a bit jarringly different in tone from the rest of the show. Considering there were apparently only a couple of days' worth of rehearsal, the performance was ridiculously smooth-running as well: Apart from the fact that the actors were wearing their own clothes¹ and holding their scripts, there was only the odd line-fluff to give them away. Lots of fun all in all and once it's been polished to a level Wilmott feels happy with, and gets given a full-scale production including the promised dance numbers, visitors to the Bristol Old Vic should have a treat to look forward to.

Painted Lady - The Princess Caraboo Scandal by Phil Wilmott is part of the Vibrant Festival at the Finborough Theatre, where in addition to the main show² a different rehearsed reading takes place every day. So this was the only public performance of this show at the Finborough, however the Vibrant Festival continues with different readings until the 19th of June.

¹far too many in D-Boys' case; I don't just mean in the sense that I generally object to him wearing clothes at all, I mean he had on a long-sleeved shirt and a T-shirt underneath it, considering those of us in the audience were sweating to death in the tiny room, it made me feel hotter just looking at him. OH GET YOUR MIND OUT OF THE GUTTER, NOT HOT IN THAT WAY! OK maybe a bit.

²The Man, which I'll be going to see in a couple of days time
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