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South Pacific

It was good after such a lengthy absence to see live theatre again.

My last visit was possibly at the self-same Chichester Theatre to see Fiddler on the Roof. Similarly South Pacific carries a deeper message of racial prejudice.

You cannot go wrong with this Rodgers and Hammerstein classic as it has the pre-requisite of at least 4 memorable songs – Some Enchanted Evening, Wash That Man Right Out Of My Hair, Happy Talk, There Is Nothing Like A Dame.

Its story line is an US army base in a Polynesian island during World War Two where a French plantation owner Emile de Becque (Julian Ovenden)  falls in love with an army  nurse Nellie Forbrush (Gina Beck).

Initially the love is returned but when she discovers he had a previous Polynesian wife she rejects him. It all comes good in the end.

Julian Ovenden was particularly impressive as de Becque.

Its not that’s easy to act, sing and dance but Julian Ovenden does all these with aplomb.

Gina Beck, though clearly pregnant, gave a boisterous performance too.

Yet as I sat on the station platform waiting for my train back home I had strange aftertaste and I analysed why.

The theatre programme has hardly changed at all in content and – at £3.50 – expensive and dull.

It contained an interview with the back stage production team and lead actors.

It was Guardian stuff – worthy censure of racism.

However, I saw an interview with Sir Patrick Stewart who, whilst acting in Chichester, canvassed for Jeremy Corbyn clearly untroubled by Corbyn’s anti Semitic remarks (“British Jewry does not understand English irony”) for which he was rightly castigated by a far superior mind, ex- Chief Rabbi Sachs.

Hammerstein devoted his life to fighting anti -semitism but the acting profession is self-evidently quite selective and hypocritical on racial issues.

In fact South Pacific was unusual in its time (1949) for its confrontation of prejudice.

The programme might have made more interesting for a review of South Pacific over the years.

I recall the film (1956) with Mitzi Gaynor and a miscast Rossano Brazzi.

This production had more impact and a good-to be-alive feel.

About Tim Holford-Smith

Despite running his architectural practice full-time, Tim is a frequent theatre-goer and occasional am-dram producer. More Posts