“Not Far From Flawless” Kiss of the Spiderwoman

Lidia Aicardi reviews UCLU Musical Theatre Soc’s recent production

Kiss of The Spiderwoman Lidia Aicardi London Tab Culture ucl UCL students UCLU Musical Theatre Society

The eternal themes of love and betrayal portrayed in a setting that screams social commentary. Anti-conventional and thought-provoking; funny as well as heartbreaking. This is Kiss of the Spider Woman, the musical put on by the UCLU Musical Theatre Society in the Garage over the weekend.

Directed by Shafeeq Shajan, the musical is set in a prison where torture is a daily occurrence, the only way the characters can hold on to a shred of sanity is by fantasising about movie-star Aurora and about what and who awaits them outside the four walls of their cell.

The story revolves around kind homosexual Molina, adorably brought to life by Luke Purwar, who is detained for “deviant behaviour”and explores the evolution of his relationship with tormented revolutionary Valentin who is imprisoned and tortured for political information. After a rocky start, the two develop a strong bond that is put to the test and eventually ends in tragedy, when the brutality of their condition as prisoners forces them to choose between loyalty to one another and their lives outside the cell.

The cast tackles this complex tale about human behaviour in extreme conditions with a tactful balance between light-hearted singing and dancing and sensitivity towards issues that, in spite of all that has been achieved to protect human rights, are still very much a reality in parts of the world not so remote as many of us may think or hope.

Luke Purwar strikes the balance between funny and sensitive and makes it impossible not to empathise with his character. Lawrence Young, who plays Valentin, brings “rough and tough” to the stage, creating a dynamic that keeps the dialogue flowing and the audience engaged in the development of the characters’ relationship. Vanessa Gstettenbauer with her powerful voice, red lips and sensual onstage presence, creates the “hollywood femme fatale” in a way that is not far from flawless.

The rest of the cast’s strong vocals and dancing makes the show as a whole flow smoothly and without a moment of “stall” in spite of the two-hour duration. If you missed it, shame on you! If there is a show that deserves queuing in the rain outside the Garage for, this was definitely it.