It might seem a strange thing to
do, but director Taryn O’Connor’s
decision to cast three different leads in this three-performance production of
Equal parts strutting and crashing around the Byre stage, Powell’s Hedwig exudes a wearied confidence that encourages instant sympathy.
Equal parts strutting and crashing around the Byre stage, Powell’s Hedwig exudes a wearied confidence that encourages instant sympathy. Although unapologetically crass, Hedwig’s desperation to love and be loved to the point of completion comes across as a beautifully, starkly painful. Hedwig sings through her past, revisiting with total emotional immersion and just a touch of wistfulness all the experiences that have led her to this stage. Powell has a solid voice, but his true talent is in the compelling storytelling, drawing the audience in with each word. The role of Hedwig’s resentful husband Yitzhak (Kate Kitchens) plays well against this, with her body language and facial expressions conveying more than words ever could.
Unfortunately, the captivating rhythm was interrupted by production issues that were not well addressed; not least Powell’s body mic getting water damaged halfway through the show. Although quickly and smoothly fixed by Powell being given a hand microphone, he – understandably ill prepared for this possibility – often forgot to keep the microphone to his face when singing, resulting in the loss of several lines. Also somewhat jarring was the inclusion of references to St Andrews; yes, it’s a staple of Hedwig and the Angry Inch to tailor to the venue’s city, but somehow – in a small place like St Andrews – the attempt at relevance to the audience comes across as laboured instead of clever. The obligatory reference to outgoing Principal of the University, Louise Richardson, did not quite fit where it is put.
As is mentioned in the cast and crew’s talk back (held after the performance to discuss production process and the issues addressed) Hedwig is not simply a two-hander, if done correctly. The band members, playing the ‘Angry Inch’ are just as integral. Aside from their peerless playing, they remain physically engaged throughout the performance, allowing Powell’s playful teasing endearing targets.
Ultimately, this entertaining but emotionally exhausting performance makes for a good viewing experience. Although the flow is troubled at times by technical difficulties, they contribute in the end to actually make Hedwig and the Angry Inch more realistic and gripping.