Theatre Review – The Follies, National Theatre, London

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Stephen Sondheim’s relatively unaltered 1971 hit musical is running until May 2019 and delighting London audiences.

There are many great things about it. Not least that is a million miles away from the dismal contemporary trend in brazen political pointscoring by most of London’s other thespian extravaganzas.

Not a snide mention against Brexit, May, Corbyn, Trump or Putin in sight.

Glorious.

The set is outstanding. Morphing between a derelict, crumbling, red-brick theatre, then (towards the end) a glitzy rostrum deserving of the great choreography and powerful vocals, sustained throughout.

Casting was aplomb. Sondheim’s plot is retrospective, with jaded, puffy-eyed, fifty-somethings becoming tipsy and melancholic, to the point of decaring love for old flames, enacting divorce proceedings, then – towards the end – tearful commiserations.

All within the vortex of nearly twenty songs, and more than two hours of sparkling, unbroken lyrical repertoire. (There is no interval.)

We won’t regurgitate the plot further, but this was the apogee of a London musical theatre experience, thanks to a largely American cast and (now) iconic musical lyricist, Stephen Sondheim, now well into his eighties.

The brightest performance, was, curiously, ‘Losing My Mind’, a classic breakdown song split across four main characters; two once-glamorous couples who suffer drink-fuelled regret, at this once-only Follies dancing girls reunion.

With each quaff of champagne they become even more convinced that they bonked and bonded with the wrong partner thirty years ago.

And as the final lines are delivered, it becomes clear to the audience that, after decades of marital strife, cheating, and gamesmanship, these miserable protagonists will fully embrace risk adversity. They will stick together in their inexplicable, unhealthy, yet inevitable family unions.

Such is the fear of a jump towards the blue sky and cirrus clouds…

It was at this point, right near the finale, I suddenly remembered Brexit.