Tuesday, 29 January 2019

REVIEW: Leave to Remain at the Lyric Hammersmith

In what you might think is a new show about Brexit, Leave to Remain at the Lyric Hammersmith is actually a “modern love story with music”. The story follows Obi (Tyrone Huntley) as he agrees to marry his boyfriend Alex (Billy Cullum) in a bid to ensure he is able to stay in the UK as his work is relocating and they control his visa. What we learn along the way is that both have secret pasts that they try to hide from one another and families that they bash heads with. 

The components of this production fail to deliver. 

What this show does is set conventions to start with, which we follow and agree to as an audience, but then breaks them. Tyrone sings the majority of the score for a good portion of the beginning, making us think this is an interesting devise which justifies the choice of genre. However when everyone starts to chime in we lose that and realise that this is in fact a poorly written musical with no idea what its trying to be.

What Robby Graham (Director) attempts to do with the movement in the piece just turns out to be messy. We start with a very frantic assembly style movement piece but as the show moves on we discover that it is in-fact strict choreography, blurring the lines between the two so we actually come out not understanding the style of the piece. 

The background work was there, the story was important and touching and the cast were outstanding but the music of this show let them down.

The music is not interesting and is actually poorly written, the songs come at a point in which the scenes are at a high drama point but instead of heightening the situation actually brings it back down and they feel totally irrelevant. The drama and conflict is snatched away from us. The music adds nothing to this piece other than showcasing the brilliant talent on stage, if this was a play and the music was stripped away it could have actually been a very powerful and poignant play but instead makes a mockery of itself with a score that all sounds exactly the same. 

The cast is fantastic, Will Burton CDG has pulled together an incredible bunch of performers. The stars of the show are clearly Tyrone Huntley and Billy Cullum who both show outstanding acting and vocal talents within it. Both prove in this show that they are at the top of their game and it excites me to think whats in store for them in the future. 

I must mention Rakie Ayola (Grace) and Aretha Ayeh (Chichi), playing Obis mother and sister. They were the stand outs in the cast for me. Both are phenomenal story tellers and pulled on our heart strings. 

In saying the band things about this production, I looked a few rows in front of me and I noticed a school group were dotted around the auditorium and during the bows I thought how important and fantastic it is that this theatre are sharing this story of diversity, homosexuality, religion and relationships with the younger generation, its an important message to send out. It could have been much better, but when we look at the reality of what this piece is doing, we can’t fault that. 

We must mention the warm and wonderful greeting and treatment we got from the staff at the Lyric Hammersmith also, its a stunning venue and the staff are but only a credit to it. 

This piece features a poorly written and boring score with a very blurry vision of what it wants to be, leaving the audience confused. I was frustrated the drama and action was taken away from our eyes to make way for pointless and meaningless songs, however executed brilliantly by the cast, but it is the main fault of this production. 

Review by Mark Swale

Rating: ★★

Seat: Stalls, G17 | Price of Ticket: £32

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