Sunday, December 20, 2009

Musical review: ‘Cappuccino Girls’ at The Gate, Cardiff

Billed as ‘Sex and the City meets Desperate Housewives’ and with predominantly pink posters and other marketing, this show obviously wasn’t aimed at blokes. As my mate Ian said “It was alright… if you have ovaries.” Cathy disagreed. She has ovaries and she wasn’t keen on it.

So what was wrong? Well, technically it was very good. The songs were good, the acting was generally of a very high standard (two actors were much better than the others, but that’s always the way), the plot was okay (with some ‘twists’ you could see coming from the middle of the first act), the venue was, well, if you’ve been to The Gate, you’ll know how it looks like a good venue until you actually have to sit in it for more than five minutes.

But as a show it left me feeling dissatisfied and slightly uneasy. [[[spoiler alert]]] The concluding happy ending happens when one character comes into money – more specifically £20million – and is able to pay for a bone marrow transplant and bankroll her friend’s magazine. So, money is the answer to all of life’s problems, is it?

Well, fine and dandy if you have an estranged dad to leave you £20million, but if you don’t, it’s fair to say you’re screwed. A far more satisfying story would have been if the girls had to find a happy ending without the financial fallback of a sudden windfall. Maybe one of them would have to give up their childhood sweetheart in order to stay with her husband, the bone-marrow donor, or another scenario. It would have been a darker show, but a better one.

Every musical has a message, for good or ill, and this was no different – a father trying to make good his wrongs and set his child free. But there are other ways that could be done on stage, without the insinuated message that money sets you free and solves your issues for you.

And there’s also the edge that this was billed as a celebration of independent women, drawing strength from each other, and taking on the world. But their independence in the end stemmed from a fortune left to them by a penitent father, rendering all their independence as a result of paternalistic largesse. Instead of the respect earned by building up a magazine circulation and reputation from scratch, being bank-rolled by a millionaire friend isn’t exactly the triumph of hopes and dreams that it was portrayed as.

Hardly a celebration of emancipated womanhood.

Ultimately, Cappuccino Girls lived up to its name. Frothy like the coffee, and girls, not women, living out a fantasy where they are saved from the harsh reality of life.

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