Arts Award Review: Fionnuala Cassidy
Fionnuala went to see Chess at the Hinckley Concordia Theatre.
Overall, Unlike the cold, calculating game of chess, this production was full of emotion, with a love triangle within the battle of communism versus capitalism.
I watched this with my Grandad and he really enjoyed the interplay of international politics within a sporting contest between the representatives of the two superpowers. Afterwards he talked about his memories of that time and the clash of celebrities. These were the superstars of their day and in 1972, the second game of the world championship was given away because one of the player's further demands were not met. This was represented well in the musical.
I disliked the fact that the orchestra was playing slightly too loud, drowning out weaker voices of some of the supporting cast.
The musical numbers were a great surprise, with excellent voices from the principal performers. It showed just what can be achieved by a collaboration between music theatre legend Tim Rice of Jesus Christ Super Star fame and pop sensations Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus of ABBA. Beautiful lyrics and haunting melodies - One Night in Bangkok and I Know Him So Well being just two.
The principals dominated the stage and presented a great contrast - a loutish American Grandmaster, a serious Russian Grandmaster. Also they projected the multi-layered story of three battles taking place - the battle between American and Russian masters on the board, their personal fight over the same woman and, behind it all, the ever-present manipulation by the superpowers.
I personally think that the simple set worked well with a raised platform for the chess matches, and the players wearing the chess colours of the pieces...black vs white. The idea of the players and woman being mere pawns, political advisors, police and coaches as larger influential pieces and USA and USSR as the powerful Kings/Queens was a great message.