Hair at the Kings Theatre, Southsea, REVIEW: 'It's an experience that if you don't open yourself up to will completely pass you by'
It has been more than 50 years since audiences were first introduced to the wigs, psychedelic tunes and free love of anti-war musical Hair.
In that time a lot has changed, but as the opening to this latest touring production reminds us – a lot hasn't.
Kick-starting its 2019 run at the King's Theatre in Southsea, this rendition opened with harrowing words from US president Donald Trump threatening war. Sound bites from his predecessors then swept through the theatre re-stepping through speeches of Obama, Bush and through to leaders of the 1960s when Hair was conceived.
That was the only time the show connected itself to the present day allowing the audience to quickly become immersed into the lives of a long-haired New York tribe protesting against the Vietnam War.
The staging and set design deserves praise. Flowing multi-coloured fabrics draped along the back of the stage and bohemian tents for the show's live musicians created the setting for the commune, which the audience was invited to be a part. This is undeniably key in Hair, a show that is more about the immersive experience than a narrative.
Of what traditional storytelling there is in Hair, much of the focus is put on one of the main characters Claude – a young member of the tribe torn between a want for peace and joining the army, which he sees as his duty. Here Gosport-born performer Paul Wilkins captivates as Claude conveying fear, confusion and finally acceptance.
The whole cast though is strong both vocally and in the dance numbers, gelling in the instantly recognisable harmonies of the show's big hitters Aquarius, Hair and Let the Sun Shine.
At the end of this opening-night show actors encouraged audience members to join them on stage for the final reprise and plenty were happy to oblige. Because that's what Hair is, it's an experience that if you don't open yourself up to will completely pass you by.