BWW Review: THE MARRIAGE OF KIM K, Arcola Theatre

BWW Review: THE MARRIAGE OF KIM K, Arcola Theatre

BWW Review: THE MARRIAGE OF KIM K, Arcola TheatreUnlike the event that inspired it, The Marriage of Kim K is a really good idea. Leo Mercer and Stephen Hyde's musical / opera bounces between three couples' stories, three music genres and (at least) three levels of observation ("Gogglebox 3.0"?). It's ambitious, it's smart and it just about avoids being sunk by its own archness at the end of its helter-skelter 90 minutes all-through.

Young married couple, Amelia and Stephen (Amelia Gabriel and Stephen Hyde - a real life couple (see, we're already getting meta)) watch Reality TV couple, Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries, get married and bicker, while they, having recently got married, also bicker, because lawyer Amelia can't help trying to keep up with La Kardashian and songwriter Stephen wants to listen to Mozart. Got that? So, as in the famous Steptoe and Son episode when rights of access the television set ultimately leads to a literally divided home, Amelia and Stephen fall out over the fallout from their opposing fandoms.

We also get to see the pneumatic KK and uber-jock Kris lust after each other and lose each other and, on the third set within a set, the already stale relationship Count and Countess Almaviva who sing (wonderfully) excerpts from Mozart's Marriage of Figaro. (In fact, all the music - be it teen pop, electronic or operatic - is inspired by Mozart's melodies and, let's face it, the hyperactive big kid had tunes). Oh, and in a Brexitty way, the Count and Countess are living through the French Revolution, the old certainties crumbling and a new, dangerous, unpredictable world emerging.

You see what I mean about watching them watching each other and all that meta stuff? In a nice move, the observed couples take to the sofa in the final scene to look on as Amelia and Stephen... well, that'd be telling.

Not only is the interlocking plot structure pleasingly Nolanesque, the songs are often excellent, superbly played by Sam Davies' hard-working and versatile band. Highlights included "Unhappy" (which I felt had a echo or two of Pharrell in it) and "Make Up Tutorial" Kim's lesson in make-up, if not making up. The singing (by a very young cast) is a little inconsistent, but Emily Burnett's soprano is a real treat.

Unfortunately - and this happens to shows with much more experience on and off stage and bigger budgets than this one - the balance between voices and instruments was way off, so I (and my son, whose ears are much younger than mine) struggled to hear the lyrics, which is a problem in a sung through work. It was a shame because what we did hear was witty and pleasingly matched to the musical genres. Get that sorted out for Edinburgh (where the show goes next) and audiences are in for a marvellous show.

The Arcola's Grimeborn season, a brilliantly innovative way to open up an often forbidding art form to new audiences, is now an established part of the London Fringe calendar and this production, despite that intrusive technical fault, is exactly the sort of show that should be included in its programme. Look out for it if your Festival bound next month.

The Marriage of Kim K is at the Arcola until 29 July and at the Edinburgh Fringe in August.

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