Theatre review: The Sting at Wilton’s Music Hall

Ross Forder as Hooker and Bob Cryer as Gondorff in The Sting at Wilton's Music Hall

Ross Forder as Hooker and Bob Cryer as Gondorff in The Sting at Wilton's Music Hall - Credit: Archant

This stage version of the classic 1973 film proved a riotous way to re-open Wilton’s Music Hall, says Jill Truman.

If you are looking for a really good night out, head for the oldest surviving music hall in the world. This rabbit-warren of a building is currently celebrating its restoration.

Now structurally sound, Wilton’s Music Hall retains an atmosphere of romantic decay: its many rooms, haunted by the ghosts of past theatrical triumphs and disasters, have been transformed into 1930s Chicago and are thronged with people celebrating. From time to time, authentically-dressed individuals step out of the crowd to sing, play the piano or perform. The spectators are part of the performance and the performers part of the crowd.

Playwright David Rogers has re-written Daniel Ward’s screenplay for the 1973 film The Sting,which starred Robert Redford and Paul Newman, as a full-length play.

Retaining the pace, tension and wit of the movie, the action zips from racecourse to train, to strip joint, to gambling den, to diner and a dozen other locations. The cast of con men, gangsters, card sharps and floozies are all on the make: stealing, conning, cheating and killing. The whipcrack dialogue is witty. Between scenes, people stride across the stage as though the violent streets of Chicago are a reminder of the harsh realities of that era.

This is a strong ensemble performance, although Bob Cryer as Gondorff, Ross Forder as Hooker and John Chancer as Lonnegon are outstanding as men inextricably involved in a world of violent crime. Hannah Brackstone-Brown invests the role of Billie with effortless charm and some guile. And pianist Ashley Henry combines great musical and acting talent.

The sparse 1930s set designed by director Peter Joucla cleverly adapts to multiple locations, and choreographer Simeon John-Wake, organises the large, elegantly-clad cast to appear entirely natural. It’s spirited, colourful entertainment. After the show, the audience stayed to celebrate Wilton’s re-opening. In one of the bars, a band is playing and people dance. A new chapter in the long history of this unique building has begun.

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Rating: 4/5 stars