Saturday, 6 July 2019

REVIEW: Fiver at Southwark Playhouse

It’s so important to support new writing where you can as the Musical Theatre industry gets harder and harder to break in to and the west end becomes more and more commercial. 

Hence, we jumped at the chance to see Fiver at Southwark Playhouse. This new musical written by Tom Lees and Alex James Ellison follows the story of a humble five pound note as it passes through the hands and pockets of people in London. Often unnoticed and obviously unaware, the fiver is present for significant moments in each person’s life – whether it be an appreciation of their skills as a street performer; the start or end of a relationship; or the simple realisation that they can afford a bed for the night.

Admittedly, I went into the, extremely hot, venue with reservations about the show based purely on the storyline. Now, I can’t say my initially thoughts were entirely wrong or untrue as the book definitely needs some work, as does the number of ballads in the show. However, I was definitely pleasantly surprised. 

The cast consists of, unsurprisingly, five people. Dan Buckley, Hibah Elchikhe, Aoife Clesham, Luke Bayer and one half of the writing duo, Alex James Ellison. Now, the first thing that has to be said is that the vocals are impressive from start to finish with beautiful harmonies, tone and beautiful intonation from everyone. However, sometimes it felt like the story and the characters were an accessory to the singing as opposed to the other way around, particularly from Bayer and Clehsam. 

Not enough praise can be given to Dan Buckley. His vocals are some of the nicest I’ve heard in a long time and paired with his honest, beat to beat, exquisite acting, he is definitely one of the finest performers in London. Similar can be said for Elchikhe. Her vocals are strong and effortless and she acts with naturalism and wit. 

I felt, in parts, that the writing didn’t quite live up to the standard that Buckley and Elchikhe create and hence, some of the more cheesy material, particularly the opening and closing number, the actors looks a little uncomfortable. 

The music was executed beautifully by Tom Lees and the band and both the
lighting and sound tech were concise. The only thing I personally would change here is not having the guitar in the aisles with the audience. It throws the sound balance off and creates some timing issues as there is a visual block between the band members. 

My summary of this show would be that it’s great for what it is. By that, I mean that it’s a fun, inexpensive night out at the theatre. An easy watch and beautiful vocals. However, I think fringe and off west end venues is where this little show can ‘live it’s best life’. I fear that progressing to wider audiences and bigger venues would do more harm than good. 

Review by Lucas Wang

Rating: ★★★★

Seat: Unreserved | Price of Ticket: £22
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