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BWW Review: AN EVENING AT JOE'S, Joe Allen Restaurant Online

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BWW Review: AN EVENING AT JOE'S, Joe Allen Restaurant Online

Joe Allen, the restaurant lovingly referred to as "the West End's canteen", last night streamed a virtual, live evening of star-studded entertainment. The beloved theatre haunt, running since 1977, has been severely affected by the pandemic and so created this show to raise funds for itself and all those in crisis in "theatreland". An Evening at Joe's is in partnership with Acting For Others, produced by Josephine Buchan and Matt Elson in association with Toast 32 Film Co.

All artists involved admirably gave their time for free. West End favourites included Nadim Naaman (The Phantom of the Opera), Fra Fee (Les Misérables), Gary Wilmot (Showstoppers), and Claire Moore (Miss Saigon), who performed an emotionally fitting mash-up of "The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow" and "Keep on Smilin'". Each singer looked straight down the camera lens, which created a welcomed intimacy between them and the audience.

La Voix did a fabulous job at hosting, still managing to make us laugh and maintain impeccable comic timing even without a tangible audience. Her performance of the diva's staple "Don't Rain On My Parade" was thoroughly enjoyable.

Interwoven were comedic skits between Patricia Hodge and Derek Jacobi, giving the waiter their excessive order from the Joe Allen menu. All actors were on separate screens, and yet the clever editing and inevitably good acting meant that it took a while to notice their isolation. We were even gifted a scene where a bartender talked us through making the "Pain Killer" cocktail.

All these scenes woven together culminated in the experience that we were really there at Joe Allen, enjoying a cocktail, chatting to friends, and watching a cabaret. The sound effects of applause, clinking glasses and restaurant chitchat seamlessly added to this atmosphere. Additionally, the backdrop was an effectively used device, appearing as the poster-covered restaurant walls that altered slightly to suit each act.

The production value was amazing, even groundbreaking. Precious elements of live performance, that can be lost through online streaming, were largely made up for by the clever manipulation of all these technological devices.

The future of live performance is unclear right now - a scary concept for theatre lovers. But since watching this inventive fundraiser, I feel hopeful that not all will be lost, as more shows take to online streaming to keep theatre alive for the foreseeable future. All those looking to produce their show online should look at An Evening at Joe's as an example of how to do it right.

You can donate to Joe Allen and all those in crisis in theatreland here

An Evening At Joe's is available to watch on YouTube

Photo credit: Steven Joyce

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