For a small room above a pub in Clapham, I am always pretty impressed with the standard of Fringe theatre that takes place at the Landor. Tom Acito and Alexander Dinelaris’ quirky little musical, Zanna Don’t! seems to fit the bill at the pub come theatre quite nicely.
For those that don’t know, Zanna Don’t! is a camp as Christmas, frothy little tale of love and acceptance, set in an all gay parallel universe in which high school students aspire to be prom king and king or queen and queen and the captain of the chess club is the biggest catch in town. If you like your theatre fun and silly with a slide of glitter then this show is certainly for you.
I was pleased to see what set and lighting designer, Ben Rogers, had done with the space. He managed to turn a small black box space into a colourful playground for happy homos; the perfect backdrop to the goings on at Heartsville High. The use of the space was ingenious and placing the audience in traverse was a very nice touch, denoting the “all inclusive” vibe of the show.
The cast worked well as an ensemble, with musical numbers such as “Ride ‘Em” and the side splitting “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” winning the audiences’ admiration. More intimate scenes, however, ran the risk of airing slightly on the cringe worthy side. Whilst I appreciated Liam Christopher Lloyd’s initial performance, I found him somewhat unconvincing as the “straight” Steve… I kind of felt like it was just “a phase” for him.
David Ribi was fun but lacked a certain degree of conviction that could have lifted his character from a stereotype “fairy” to something more diverse and thought provoking.
None the less there were some stand out performers. The ever amusing Ceris Hine (Ushers the Musical) was fabulous as the somewhat confused, Kate and Jennifer Saayeng shone as the raunchy Roberta, who could rip off the roof with her vocal power!
There is no escaping that the plot is pretty predictable and cringey in places and this particular production of Zanna Don’t! was at times a tad patronising. For example I was confused as to why the “straight” men digressed into quizzical “LADZONTOUR” chest beating gorilla types?! I appreciate the narrative necessities of the “straight” scene, but it was somewhat amusing that they were all apelike fairy dream crushers. Boo you, hetros!
The message and vibe of the show is overwhelmingly positive; be whoever, love whoever and you will be accepted. That is something I can certainly get on board with and, despite a few winces, I left the theatre feeling pretty happy, which I imagine was the aim of the production in the first place.
As many critics have professed; it is hard to review with stars…was Zanna Don’t good? Yes. Is it of the same calibre of work seen in other off West End venues such as the Almeida, the Tricycle and the St James Theatre? Not really. Tickets are still a relatively pricey £17, but if you are up for a couple of hours of glittering and being gay, then heck, this is the show for you.