Tuesday, 23 October 2012

RENT - review

Written by: Ryan J. Brown (@freakyriddles)

Cockpit Theatre, London

Interval Productions decided they should follow up their hugely successful After the Turn, praised by The Stage newspaper as the “British equivalent to RENT”, with the challenge of developing Jonathan Larson’s brave and heartrending musical game changer.

Interval’s ‘stripped down’ production recaptured the endlessly relevant and beautifully composed lyricism of Larson. This vibrant version does not say anything explicitly new, but certainly allows the gripping original to speak out once again with its seemingly eternal relevance. Prior RENT knowledge did allow an easier facilitation of plot and a first timer would most definitely be left somewhat perplexed. This confusion arrives on account of poor sound production, strayed diction and some scenes being rather rushed. But there was also a distinct feeling that the production wasn’t entirely comfortable in the wonderful Cockpit Theatre in Marylebone. Placement in the Cockpit was at times rather shaky despite the brilliant black box theatre having the potential to provide both an intimate setting and/or towering platform for performance. It was a shame that this production found itself caught in the middle, never comfortably staged: the use of the upper balconies often felt like a rushed decision to ‘fill the space’ and the apartments consistently felt just a little too far away. The use of projection on the back wall never reached its full potential and only ever felt like another unexplored add-on.

Almost all of the cast embody the wild and bohemian characters perfectly and it is this raw talent that drives the show onwards when the setting becomes quickly stale. The entire cast are exceptionally powerful and vocally professional. None more so than recent Mountview Academy graduate Will Bradnam who is notably superb as Mark, delivering an energetic and world-class performance with consistently enthralling vocals. The character of Mark can often lack a distinctive quality and purpose other than acting as narrator, as Anthony Rapp, the original Mark Cohen (both on-stage and film) recently informed me, but Bradnam really earns his place on stage and owns every scene. Ambra Caserotti and Sabrina Aloueche also provide two impeccable voices as Joanne and Maureen, with eccentric charm and delightful chemistry they both offer captivating and humorous originality.

John Mccrea as Angel also deserves special mention. Mccrea mastered being both completely vulnerable, entirely sassy and constantly exhilarating to watch with some of the most complex choreography appearing as second nature. Mccrea also had the strongest diction, which was an issue for many others. Carlton Connell playing opposite Mccrea’s Angel as his lover Collins was definitely much more comfortable in the second act and once he truly found his feet his soulful embodiment was really set free.

Kamilah Beckles choreography was completely engaging and incredible to watch, it was only a shame that during musical numbers like Take Me Out, that the lighting drowned out what was clearly extraordinarily controlled delivery.

This production did suffer from an unsophisticated environment and clunky storytelling (all easy to fix) but further disappointment was avoided by the bringing together of stunning voices, an extremely capable band and the ever-affecting story that talented artists like Tori Allen-Martin (founder of Interval Productions) are thankfully compelled to retell. 

This production runs until 10 November 2012. 
For more information: http://thecockpit.org.uk/show/rent 
@cockpittheatre @nodaybut2dayuk 

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Anonymous said...

Another review that sounds like a flowery essay to the point that i don't understand everything you are saying. You also seem to compliment the whole cast rather then informing us of one standout performance. And i am left not understanding what rent is about and if i would like to see it or not, but knowing that you know a lot about it and wanted to tell us that! Peen, be the EDITOR you should be!

Peeny said...

My job as editor is to make sure there are no spelling mistakes, no grammatical errors and that the piece is readable - I'm sorry you don't find it to be the latter, but after several more looks at this review, I'll be making no further changes because I don't feel them necessary. I'm not here to insert/remove/re-write whole paragraphs.

Granted, this review doesn't inform you of the plot - but it doesn't have to. There are no rules to say it should. If you want to find out what RENT is all about, the first thing you should read isn't a review. Instead, try Google. Or see a production of it. This review is here to offer the critic's opinions on a performance he saw - which I would argue is done well.

Anonymous said...

Clearly someone that was involved in the show. Perhaps a little bitter? Either way, totally illogical nonsense.