first night

Ordinary Days

Charlotte Thomas watches DULOG take on a slightly unconventional musical.

 DULOG’s Epiphany term show, Ordinary Days, was a departure from their often large scale productions. Set in the Music Department’s Concert Room, the audience were treated to an intimate setting. This, far from being awkward or underwhelming, only served to enhance what was a beautifully honest and fresh performance.

Ordinary Days, by Adam Gwon, follows four characters: Warren (Alex Mackinder), Deb (Meriel Killeen), Claire (Isabelle Horler) and Jason (Mitch Kroener). The musical takes us through the trials, tribulations, loves and losses of these people, beginning  with the hubbub of New York City (‘One By One By One’) and ending with two gorgeous numbers (‘I’ll Be Here’ and ‘Beautiful’) which bring the intersecting story arcs to their conclusions. I won’t give away any more of the plot, not least because a lot of this musical’s charm is in the frank narration of the characters themselves. It is through this truthful story-telling that we realise that what we think is an ordinary day could just be anything but!

My first congratulations must go to the two directors: Sophie Forster (Director) and John Reddel (Musical Director). Forster took what is a very exposed musical and created something into which we were totally immersed, both visually and emotionally. Reddel deserves great praise, for professional and varied musical direction – with the help of Assistant Musical Director Becky Brooks – which elicited a wide range of emotion in the audience. Reddel also deserves commendation for accompanying the entire thing solo from beginning to end, with both stamina and skill: truly impressive. Producers Genevieve Burns and Tom Mack did very well dressing the simple space. This had to range from the street, to a coffee shop (shout-out to Barista Reddel), to the Met, to a taxi. The use of bright-coloured, non-naturalistic set allowed the actors to shine. My personal props highlight was being handed an inspirational fuchsia flyer by Mackinder reading:  ‘Take the scenic route: life is not a metered ride’…bless him. The technical aspects of the production could have been an issue in the small space, however Technical Director Jaisal Patel should be commended for his use of simple lighting, and fantastic audio balance between the cast and the piano, with minimal hiccoughs.

Finally, I must praise each and every one of the four actors. Kroener and Horler had a lovely, easy familiarity at the start of the show which developed though numbers such as ‘I’m Trying’ to a simultaneously funny and emotive passive-aggression in ‘Fine’. Although I would have liked to have seen a bit more engagement from Kroener with the words he was singing, his vocal range and technique was very impressive. Horler, despite being slightly nervous at points, depicted her character’s development with ease and the climax of her story in ‘I’ll Be Here’ was, quite simply, stunning – both in terms of her acting and her beautiful voice. Mackinder as the optimistic and endearing Warren was also vocally fantastic, dealing with melodies that were both complex and wide-ranging. The developing friendship between Mackinder’s and Killeen’s characters was beautifully portrayed, and the number ‘Rooftop Duet/Falling’ was both empowering and moving. Killeen, for me, stood out from a performance perspective. Her characterisation of the sassy student Deb was consistently hilarious (…if students watching this don’t relate to ‘Dear Professor Thompson Part 1’ and ‘Dear Professor Thompson Part 2’, they’re lying to themselves), and vocally on-point, my personal favourite being the fiendishly quick ‘Calm’. For a musical which had basically zero spoken dialogue, all members of the cast took us through the story in an approachable and engaging manner, and when singing as an ensemble took my breath away.

Ordinary Days is showing until Saturday – it is refreshing and beautifully performed, and I cannot recommend seeing it enough. Well done to everyone involved and I wish them all the best for the remainder of their run.

3 March 2016

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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