Hair the Musical is celebrating its 50th anniversary with a marvellous performance at The Vaults theatre in London, boasting all the psychedelic and exciting madness of the 60s in an intimate performance space.
The musical attempts to tackle the classic idea of ‘Peace, not War’ and fighting against the militant and violent regiments of the government, which is especially relevant today with the rise of the American President, Donald J Trump. In fact, the Musical begins with the actors seated in a circle, whilst audio clips from Trump’s campaign play in the background, slightly distorted, and disconnected.
The show itself doesn’t boast a significant plot. Instead, it focuses on the experience of the Hippie culture in 1960s America. The musical starts with a beautiful rendition of ‘Aquarius’, before leading into comedic songs that introduce the exuberant and vibrant cast of characters. Stand out performances would be Andy Coxon’s depiction of the young, wily, and charismatic George Berger; Laura Johnson’s Sheila, delivering emotionally charged performances that make you want to support her fight for freedom; and Robert Metson’s Claude, wonderfully conveying the mental conflict between staying with his friends or fighting for his country.
The show was performed in a small and intimate space, which they took full advantage of with occasional bits of audience interaction to enhance the comedy of certain scenes. It made the show more involving, as if we were all a part of the tribe rather than just passive onlookers. They would occasionally stand on the front benches or try to squeeze into free seats, running through the audience waving flags and shouting for peace. Although it was not an ‘immersive’ show, the cast did very well to involve the audience in the antics, making it fun to watch and be a part of.
Hair is a show that, even 50 years later, is still relevant and poignant as we face a troubling and uncertain future ahead of us
The music is absolutely wonderful, with a great balance of comedy and seriousness that conveys both the ups and downs of the Hippie movement. Stand out songs include ‘It’s Easy to be Hard’, sung by Sheila, and the series of songs that comprised the drug trip scene. The wild and varied song about Claude’s hallucination was expertly directed and conducted, drawing the audience into the wild surreality of his vision and experience. The blacklight made everything glow a vibrant neon, including my shoes that the actors would stare at when passing by, adding to the psychedelic excitement of the scene. The actors were all exceptional singers and all beautifully harmonised, their voices carrying wonderfully across the intimate space, sending shivers down spines in the process.
The finale, ‘The Flesh Failures (Let the Sunshine in)’, was a bone-chilling ending to the stunning performance. The entire cast gave emotive performances, perfectly showing the juxtaposition between the cold, patriotic Claude, and those in the tribe struggling through the cold, fighting for peace. It rounded the entire show off perfectly, leaving a hopeful yet desolate feeling as the play ends, with a tattered makeshift American flag hung off metal rails in the background.
The entire experience was a wild ride, as the actors took you on the adventurous wild and whacky journey of the 60s hippie movement. Whilst there is no real proper plot, there is the underlying conflict between fighting for your country, through war, or fighting for your country, through peaceful protest. Hair is a show that, even 50 years later, is still relevant and poignant as we face a troubling and uncertain future ahead of us. A fantastic show with fantastically talented actors and singers, it is definitely something to be experienced and enjoyed.
Not to mention the dance party they made us all join was a blast.
Image: Anthony Robling