'From Here to Eternity Review' or 'Are we there yet, are we there yet, arewethereyet?'
'From Here to Eternity', Music by Stuart Brayson, Lyrics by Tim Rice
Shaftesbury Theatre, 22nd October 2013
Written for Ham & High
First the good news. The music for 'From Here to Eternity', written by West End newcomer Stuart Brayson, isn't half bad. It's a confident combination of blues, big band, early rock n roll and a splash of Hawaiian swagger. Tim Rice's lyrics are decent and Darius Campbell, in particular, brings a little smouldering soul to Brayson's solid score.
The source text is also promising. 'Eternity' is based on James Jones' semi autobiographical novel (also the inspiration for the 1953 Oscar winning movie), which tells the story of a restless platoon of American soldiers based in Pearl Harbour, Hawaii, as WWII blazes elsewhere. It is a dark story with unusual heroes; pacifists, whores, adulterers and homosexuals.
Such a sophisticated story demands a mature book – but Bill Oakes' script is clunky, naiive and poorly focused. Soutra Gilmour's lumpy set adds little atmosphere and looks like a cross between an abandoned temple and Fred Flintstone's cave. Tamara Harvey's direction feels timid, verging on old-fashioned.
For a show that revolves around a brothel, this is a weirdly unsexy show. The love scenes between Darius' Sergeant Warden and Captain's wife Karen (Rebecca Thornbill) feel stiff – and not in a good way. The parallel love story between solider Prewitt (Robert Lonsdale) and prostitute Lorene (Siubhan Harrison), never takes off.
The best love duet is between Darius' Sergeant and Lonsdale's Prewitt. 'Aint Where I Wanna Be Blues' is a wistful blues number, which combines Darius' oaky voice and Lonsdale's contemporary crooning to sparky effect. The other duets are much shakier and the singers sound over-stretched, despite strong support from a 15 piece band.
Alongside these stilted romances is a dark sub-plot involving a homosexual soldier, Private Angelo (Ryan Sampson), who is treated terribly by the country he serves. There's a scorching indictment of the army in here but director Harvey never sticks the knife in. It feels like she’s afraid of offending the West End crowd.
Grueling fights are played out in cheesy slow motion. Dangerous love affairs are staged amid billowing dry ice and passionate clinches are underscored with drum rolls. The final battle provokes not tears but joy; it is the end of a very long night.