The Green Fairy review – absinthe musical lacks spirit

Union theatre, London
Cliche-drenched lyrics and a lightweight storyline put a cork in the emotional reckoning at this unremarkable story’s heart

Empty bottles dangle from the ceiling in this unsurprising, unremarkable new musical about love, alcoholism and regret. A romantic recklessness lies deep inside Jack Sain’s script, but remains frustratingly corked throughout.

Jo (Julie Atherton) revisits the pub where she abandoned her hopes and her daughter, her old memories stacked like crushed cans. When the weight of her mistakes pushes her towards a glowing bottle of absinthe, up pops Georgina Hellier as the hallucinatory Green Fairy, the happy-go-lucky embodiment of the manic pixie dream girl, here to guide Jo through the ghosts of her past.

For a show so loudly pitched as queer, the gay storyline lacks confidence. Hellier embodies all of Jo’s fantasies by also taking the part of Elise, an actor Jo meets once and obsesses over for years while she settles down with someone else. While Young Jo (Emma Whittaker) and her future husband (David Perkins) lick each other’s faces clean for several minutes, the two women do little more than tamely stroke each other’s hands, and when Elise returns years down the line, we are barely given a glimpse into her relationship with Jo.

A fear of ageing lies at the core of the production; it frequently feels like watching kids chuck heavy morals and clunky metaphors at adult problems, as both the script and the lyrics (by Stephen Libby) soak up every cliche going. Sain’s score is the production’s saving grace, with the instruments fully integrated into the action, the glorious strings soaring over the thump of bar stools. There is no doubt talent here, but The Green Fairy lacks a certain spirit.

• The Green Fairy is at the Union theatre, London, until 23 November.


Kate Wyver

The GuardianTramp

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