Society: Epsom Players
Venue: Charles Cryer Theatre, Carshalton 39 High Street Carshalton SM5 3BB
Credits: Book, music & lyrics by Jonathan Larson This amateur production is presented by arrangement with Josef Weinberger Ltd.on behalf of Music Theatre international of New York
Performance Date: 09/06/2015
Paul Johnson | 11 Jun 2015 13:39pm
As a huge Rent fan I was very excited to see that Epsom Players were putting on a production. I have seen their previous shows and they are always of a great standard.
For those of you not familiar with the story, Rent is a rock musical (with music and lyrics by Jonathan Larson) which is loosely based on Giacomo Puccini’s opera La bohème. It tells the story of a group of impoverished young artists struggling to survive and create a life in New York City’s East Village in the thriving days of Bohemian Alphabet City, under the shadow of HIV/AIDS.
The group made really good use of a small space and minimal staging. The studio lends itself to the mise-en-scene of the piece. Director (Chris Malone) had clearly given attention to the transitions between scenes and this made for a fluid, well-paced production. The chicken wire Christmas tree and repeated use fairy lights was a nice touch. So a big pat on the back must go to Michael Leopold for his thought into the set design. The costumes were also very good but the lighting was a little “patchy” some scenes started with lines being said in the dark.
The cast managed well in an intimate setting: there was a good ‘held’ energy between the cast; a feeling of communion and focus and the whole production was very well rehearsed. Sometimes footsteps and whispers on entrances and exits could have been quieter, but as mentioned this is hard in a small space.
Overall this was an enjoyable production with well-cast principals, and notable use of ensemble talent throughout. Particularly well demonstrated by the two soloists Emma Dixon & Matthew Westrop in Seasons of Love, as well as the diverse and entertaining characters of the various voicemails.
This small cast has executed a production of Rent which has been conceived and realised by director, Chris Malone, whose input and vision are apparent. The whole Ensemble was vocally very strong with solid musical direction by Kristian Barli. An excellent realisation of harmonies and great overall sound.
Emma Rowland’s choreography was cleverly applied in the small space. Santa Fe was a particular favourite and really captured the dream that Collins and Angel have. It was a great contrast to the subsequent busy feel of the final ensemble of act one, Christmas Bells.
Mark Cohen (Dean Robertson) gave an excellent portrayal of the central character and he captured the right blend of being ‘the witness’, without losing sight of the portrayal of the character’s own journey. He had a nice emotional connection to the role and the other principals.
Roger (Michael Leopold) captured the angst of character well and portrayed the internal conflict with aplomb. Mimi (Emma Miller) found the tricky balance between the live-for-the-moment bad girl and a young woman who knows she has a short amount of time to live. Collins (Jony Kerslake) & Angel (Peter Wheeler) quickly established a tender and loving relationship; and gave a real sense of joy at finding each other. Joanne (Amy de Roche) & Mark showed great tension in Tango Maureen – another favourite.
Maureen’s entrance was suitably grand and Vicky Terry created the overtly sexual and in-your-face disregard for all boundaries needed for the character. Over the Moon had the audience fully engaged, including ‘moo-ing’. La vie Boheme was fully realised by whole cast and packed with energy and life. Special mention to the waiter! (Zak Negri)
I found Out Tonight was a little disappointing as a number. Mimi’s vocal performance was everything you could hope for and there was some nice choreography, but the scene felt a little bare. Perhaps it could have been better supported with more of the ensemble? Take Me or Leave Me – Joanne and Maureen’s tumultuous relationship hit its mark with a successfully explosive rendition of ths song.
The challenge of setting Angel’s death and funeral was powerfully led by Collins giving the rest of the ensemble what they needed to create a moving segment that the audience connected with.
Overall this was a great production and if there was to be any improvement I would like to suggest that more ‘character’ be pulled out of the homeless roles. The opportunity to show the gritty underbelly of 90s New York was slightly overlooked. However, this in no way detracted from what was an enjoyable production by a talented and committed cast. Very well done Epsom Players.
- : admin
- : 09/06/2015