For 4 nights, the Bernard Sunley Lecture Theatre in St Catherine’s College has been the home of a family which relishes the macabre, torture, and the undead in the campiest way possible.
Co-produced by Zoë Hartland and Isobel Connolly, The Addams Family centres on Wednesday Addams bringing Lucas Beineke, her new fiancé, to the family’s home in the middle of Central Park (yes, you read that right). The Addams family, who are in various stages of ‘living, dead, and undecided’, and the Beinekes, who are plucked straight from Middle America, could not be more different from each other. The young couple’s respective pleas for ‘One Normal Night’ go awry, and by the end of the musical, the bonds that tie the families together have been thoroughly tested.
For the most part, this transformation is successful. While the modernist ambiance of the lecture theatre is not entirely circumvented, the set design by Greta Naslenas, Perth Maharjan and Leyla Baxman is mostly convincing. Annie Sutcliffe and Jade Tedaldi’s costume design is fabulous, especially for the chorus of Ancestors, whose pale skin and tattered clothing perfectly sell their esprit de corpse.
Isobel Connolly’s musical direction is precise and her band is terrific, with the two working in harmony to convey the score’s myriad of constantly shifting rhythmic emphases with drive, energy, and dynamism. Connolly’s musicianship and accompaniment elucidates some fantastic vocal performances, with Ella Craddock’s solo number in ‘Full Disclosure’ and Harry Reddish’s performance in ‘Happy/Sad’ being of particular note. Despite moments where vocal performances could have been more energetic and that songs could have been adapted to fit certain vocal ranges better, the performances generally have significant urgency in conveying the various feelings of the characters and the stages of their emotional journeys.
Because for all of the musical’s celebration of the weird, the core of the musical is characters struggling over very human dilemmas. Victoria Kinne’s Wednesday muses over whether she and Sam Phillips’ Lucas are too unsuited to each other; Ella Craddock’s Alice laments the loveless sideshow her marriage has become; Grace Gordon’s Pugsley worries over whether he will always have a Wednesday enthusiastic to torture him. Will Shackleton’s Lurch was a delight to witness, conveying significant physical presence almost without uttering a word. The actors convey these struggles with sensitivity; their frustrated desires and their ‘things that everybody wants but no one has’ feel relatable without losing sight of the hilarious dissonances of these characters craving torture, tongues being nailed to bathroom floors and literally setting fire to Jehova’s Witnessess. These inconsistencies are some of the things that the script and its run on Broadway have been criticised for, but the cast does their best to make them work to the show’s advantage rather than against it.
If you’re a fan of anything spooky in musical theatre and want a night of fun away from your essay crisis, go and see The Addams Family in St Catherine’s College. You won’t regret it.