Sunday, 4 June 2017

REVIEW: Ordinary Days at London Theatre Workshop

It’s good to know that there are Fringe theatres in the city, providing much needed contrast from corporate life. The London Theatre Workshop is a theatre above the New Moon pub currently showing ‘Ordinary Days’, a musical by Adam Gwon – a rising musical theatre writer and composer. Since it’s inception in 2009 ‘Ordinary Days’ has done the rounds on Off-Broadway and the West End, and now is picked up Streetlights, People! Productions founded by Jen Coles and Nora Perone (performer) who are both alumni of the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. Streetlights, People! Productions promotes itself as “empower[ing] young artists and performers to generate their own opportunities instead of waiting for the phone to ring” and this sense of adventure, connection and discovering the tools to navigate the murky waters of youth is exactly what ‘Ordinary Days’ is all about. 

Exploring the well-beaten path of isolation in the city, four young New Yorkers struggle to make sense of their lives with overlapping trajectories. Jason
(Alistair Frederick) and Claire (Kirby Hughes) are a long term couple, awkwardly trying to find the right place of each other in their respective lives, with Claire longing for something more and Jason looking for commitment. Deb (Nora Perone) is an edgy and defensive grad student who is on the hunt for her lost thesis notes. On the way she finds Warren (Neil Cameron), who by contrast is an upbeat and optimistic spirit trying to see things in a positive light: “For beautiful to happen, the beautiful has got to be seen” he gushes. This slightly saccharine optimism is the essence of the show and permeates throughout. 

The action of the piece is simple – all four characters attend an afternoon in New York’s the Metropolitan Museum of Art and we follow their lives for a few days around that. The story is at times shallow – think ‘white people problems’ or troubles of the privileged, but the young and vibrant cast are all fantastic singers and do a great job in bringing us onside without hardly any set and in a stiflingly hot black box theatre; wittily dubbed ‘bikram theatre’ by a fellow audience member on exit. 

The performances are all strong without exception. For me Kirby Hughes stood
out, as leading lady West End material. Her singing was effortless and she owned the stage with ease. Nora Perone who plays Deb also deserves props for her vocal prowess and gave great face as a comedic actress. I thought it was an interesting choice to cast Alistair Frederick as the alpha male as initially he struck me as camp, however his singing was first class and ultimately delivered his part of faithful boyfriend with aplomb. Neil Cameron perhaps had the most likeability with his boy-next-door appeal and down to earth demeanour. The score of the piece was gorgeous, impressively held together by Rowland Braché on piano.

With the most basic production values the piece relies entirely on the talents of it’s cast. Kudos to the performers these are impressive but the storyline itself touches on sentimentality and at times veered towards the puerile: “The road of life has no map. Let happiness be your compass” for example. Beyond the talents of the cast there isn’t a huge amount going on here and this didn’t feel deep enough to actually say anything memorable. This was a walk in the park on a sunny day, pleasant but quickly forgotten. 

Review by Anna Williams 

Rating: ★★★
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