Review: You can get your own high by watching Hair the Musical

By Peter May

Once again the Vaults has transformed its venue into another wonderland for its latest immersive theatre production. Only this time, it’s a mini Woodstock set in the swinging sixties. Reams of multi coloured fabric dangle from the ceiling, smokey incense burns, cushions strewn everywhere and psychedelic surroundings show the excellent attention to detail to make Hair such an enjoyable performance. In time for its 50th anniversary of the original rock musical, it has already won over audiences and critics at Manchester’s Hope Mill Theatre and now brings the spirit of the sexual revolution to London.

The show benefits enormously from the intimacy of the Vaults theatre space, as each performance only allows for an audience of just 200. Depending on which colour ticket you have purchased you could well find yourself part of the show – especially if you opt for the red tickets, which to fully appreciate I would recommend you do so. Either way you will find yourself up close and personal to the hippie characters and be part of the revolution. This musical is not for shy or prudish theatregoers. Be prepared to have your hair ruffled, sat on and draped across by the cast.  Drugs and sex is the dominant discussion of the day and of course there is also the famous nude scene that ends the first act as well.

First performed Off-Broadway in 1967, Hair is about a group of young hippies in New Yorks East Village, who band together as a tribe. They are a contingent of flower children (a freeform, free love phenomenon that begun a little earlier in San Francisco, that would eventually spread to Europe and elsewhere. Taking on the feel of an American Indian tribe, they question authority and the society they are living in and the Vietnam War. The story follows Claude, who cant decide whether to burn his draft card or just his New York library card when he is called up for his duty. It is a kooky and sweetly enticing show, you can’t help but wonder what Gerome Ragni and James Rado were smoking when they wrote the book and lyrics.

From the infamous opening song Aquarius through to Let the Sunshine In, almost every song in a tuneful winner which is sure to lift your spirits. Each cast member play their roles with such enthusiasm, particularly the female characters that seem largely untouched by the impact of the women’s liberation movement. The vocals of the entire cast were terrific, notably by Shekinah McFarlane as Dionne and Laura Johnson as Sheila. The musical leaves you with a feel good glow, and you cannot help smiling as you leave.

Until 13 January, Vaults Theatre

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