first night

[title of show]

Ben Weaver-Hincks writes his last [review of show]

Written under the apparent conviction that meta is better, [title of show] is that most dreaded of things: a postmodern musical. The consequences are admittedly absurd, but undoubtedly highly enjoyable. While the lack of a clear narrative puts the onus on the cast to develop believably comic characters, Tone Deaf Theatre Company’s latest offering achieved just this.

Simon Lynch’s Hunter and Ben Gittins’ Jeff were so convincing as the show’s leads that the only criticism might be that they were playing fictionalised versions of themselves - and perhaps that was the point. If so, it certainly worked. Lynch is an undoubted vocal talent, and his acting has improved markedly over the past two years to match it. Gittins succeeded in performing a character entirely lacking in performance, giving his portrayal a toned-down naturalism rarely encountered in student musical theatre. As a pair they were matched brilliantly, with a shared comic instinct that ensured no lines failed to meet their potential.

Elissa Churchill and Rozi Prekop, as Heidi and Susan respectively, had a little less material to work with - itself a joke on the part of the writers - but they brought enough character to their roles to save them from playing second fiddles to the boys. Few performers could have matched them for charisma and energy, and they ensured that even the show’s more offbeat moments kept on track. Vocally, the cast was universally strong, and helped through the difficult harmonies and unusual musical numbers by MD Chris Guard, who also became an unlikely fifth character granted a few lines of hastily stifled dialogue.

I would question whether the Assembly Rooms was the perfect venue for such a show, and performing in the graveyard slot of week nine, it was never going to get the audiences it undoubtedly deserved. Although the show itself received a Broadway run, it feels like something more suited to somewhere less theatrical, more intimate, without the distancing effect of the proscenium arch. But while the production team did not utilise everything the Assembly Rooms has to offer, this was largely because they didn’t have to. Dan Gosselin’s flown-in fairy lights were a characteristically whimsical diversion in an otherwise beautifully simple design and director John Muething likewise deserves credit for not trying to over-complicate what is already an intricately constructed show. Stage space was so clearly exploited that the mere act of dragging a chair across it could elicit peals of laughter.

This group seemed so comfortable both which each other and with the show itself, that they were able to imbue it with the necessary energy and freshness to hold our attention, inflecting it with their own humour and personalities to provide yet further levels of absurdity. Everything from the posters to the performances maintained this belief in [title of show]’s core challenge to various theatrical conventions, and it was satisfying to see such a unified vision followed through to its conclusion. This, many of the cast and crew’s final Durham curtain call, is one they can be proud of.

 

Ben Weaver-Hincks

20 July 2013

The views expressed in the reviews and comments on this page are those of the reviewer, and are not representative of the views of DST or Durham University.
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