Friday, 19 October 2018

REVIEW: The Distance You Have Come at the Cockpit Theatre

The Distance You Have come is a song cycle that weaves some of the famous Scott Alan songs into a story line that centres around 6 characters. We all know and love Alans music from his countless cabarets over the years featuring the crème de la crème of the West End and for this production he has pulled together yet again a stunning cast. 

The story line consists of three couples who cross paths; we have two gay couples, one we see blossom and one see we destroyed, and a straight couple in which one of them has moved on and one of them is experiencing major depression. The storyline was too complicated for such a short piece and the lack of book meant we missed a lot of information so had to fill in the blanks ourselves. It was a bit of a mess and to be honest, not interesting in the slightest. 

The cast seemed to be more in the know of the storyline then we were, and this is not a good thing. The audience like to be one step ahead of the characters, not playing catch up because we’ve missed vital information.

There is no doubt Scott Alans music is beautiful but with this story he has woven together the tunes suddenly become forgettable and blend into each other. There was no change of dynamic within the score and when an upbeat song came along the direction remained stiff and still, so we still didn’t get any kind of change of pace to keep us interested. 

Having not only written the book, music and lyrics, Scott Alan also directs the show and I’m afraid to say his inexperience shines through. 

The Cockpit, being in the round, is a hard space to work with because we as the audience will constantly not be able to see action. You accept this as the piece goes on but in this piece the actors felt stiff the whole way through as they moved from each side to be seen by the whole audience. You could see from performers body language that they wanted to move, not be stuck in a spotlight. It lacked a free, easy and relaxed atmosphere amongst the performers and with Alans 2D direction we ended up with a stiff, lacklustre and monotone piece. 

The set, by Simon Daw, was beautiful and was exactly how a space like this
should be dressed. Unfortunately, due to direction, the set actually hindered the performers and restricted them. But initially, it’s a wonderful design. 

The lighting by Andrew Ellis was stunning, transforming this small space into a gorgeous picturesque portrait in front of the audience. 

Emma Hatton gives some great vocals in the show, her raw talent worked really well within the contexts of the songs. Dean John-Wilson, playing Hatton’s problematic ex-boyfriend, was too perfect. For the role he was playing his voice sounded too smooth and because of that and the fact I didn’t see his face for the most part, it meant I got no portrayal of emotion from him. The story line between this couple also seemed irrelevant, it was too much information over a short time period. It needs to be made simpler for it to feel fuller. 

Alexia Khadime gave a very nice performance as Laura, her voice really did fill the space although I’m not too sure why she gave a baby to the gay couple in the show, we left not knowing the relationship between those people.

Adrian Hansel provided a change of sound within the cast, bringing a soulful and smoother sound.

Andy Coxon and Jodie Jacobs are the stand out performers in this piece, both have a natural understanding of how to command a space and involve the audience. 

The vocals, across the board, were stunning and even though the sound did not work in anyone’s favour we still managed to get the impact of the raw vocals in this smaller space.

The problems with this production for me lie in the direction and book, both by Scott Alan. Its missing so much and is all on one level which doesn’t allow the audience to breath at any point. So, you’re left just feeling a little down, not because of the piece but because it was like listening to a sad song over and over and over and over again. 

This show could have been great, if you go in with the attitude that this is a workshop of a show you’ll accept it for what it is. But as a fully staged production, it fails to live up to expectation. 

Review by Mark Swale 

Rating: ★★

Seat: Unresevred | Price of Ticket: £32

Photo credit: Darren Bell
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