I Capture the Castle continues at Watford Palace Theatre until 22 April before touring.
Star rating: two stars ★ ★ ✩ ✩ ✩
I had fond but distant memories of Dodie Smith’s 1948 novel I Capture the Castle and was very much looking forward to this new musical adaptation at Watford Palace Theatre by composer Steven Edis and librettist Teresa Howard.
As the evening unfolded, though, it was unfortunately clear that my fond memories of the novel were not being nurtured in any way.
Why a musical I found myself asking very early on? The cast members are all strong actors and can hold a tune well, but no one could really be described as having an outstanding or even excellent voice. So the bland music is non-distinctive.
There are a lot of flailing arms and legs and bare feet and moving furniture about as dancers in a Matthew Bourne ballet might do – except this is not a ballet. It comes across as fussy and unnecessary.
And why is everyone is in bare feet? Yes, the characters are poor but bare feet everywhere?
The towering set of chairs and stairs by Ti Green is interesting and impressive, and members of the ensemble clamber up and down and through it, but sometimes you wonder why and the answer is because it’s there.
The score has so many different styles I found myself wondering whether it was trying to find a way to represent all half decades of musical theatre through the first half of the 20th century with a bit of pop thrown in for good measure.
The other problem is that it’s all a bit dull. It tries to be yearning and evocative, but simply isn’t strong enough. No melodies stay with you so you are left with a wash of sound.
Two American brothers arrive unexpectedly in the rain – cue sad English rain song complete with umbrella, which then morphs into an American style ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ song and dance number . Well meant and obviously thought about, but simply bizarre.
Unfortunately, it is difficult to really engage with or care about any of the characters. Dialogue that reads relatively well in the novel sounds daft when dramatised aloud like Shakespeare: “Rose, you can’t marry that man!… He’s got a beard!”
My feeling is that I Capture the Castle would work better as a simple play without wafting around moving chairs and stopping to sing songs in too many different styles.
This ‘new musical’ has been several years in development and yet it really isn’t any way ready or strong enough to be described as a musical.