Thursday, 19 November 2020

REVIEW: Marry Me A Little, The Barn Theatre, Cirencester

A catalogue of songs largely cut from Sondheim shows; Marry Me A Little follows an estranged couple, now living in separate apartments, dreaming of a connection outside their four walls - something we can all relate to more than we’d like this year. The Barn was one of the first regional theatres to re-open and stage socially-distanced productions in their outdoor space over the Summer. Each of those shows received huge praise, and this is no exception.

It’s incredibly refreshing to see both performers in a different light. Celinde Schoenmaker (a seasoned Christine Daae), and Rob Houchen (a veteran Marius) are both given the opportunity to play with a broad range of different emotions throughout the sung-through piece. They make a formidable partnership and deliver exceptional performances.

We hear a wonderful, fuller voice from Schoenmaker in Can That Boy Foxtrot, beautifully contrasting her famous soprano, whilst Girls Of Summer is sultry and full of yearning. In the show’s title number, she teases big, belted notes and then quickly switches to a soprano sound. Finally, in There Won’t Be Trumpets she opens fire, and it is absolutely worth the wait. Thrilling!

Houchen’s performance is every bit as masterful as his colleague’s. He flits between rich, deeper tones and lighter, romantic notes, keeping us hooked throughout. There are some beautiful nuances in his performance, with particularly enjoyable moments in Happily Ever After (axed from Company in place of Being Alive), Bang, and It Wasn’t Meant To Happen.

It would be all too easy to force this production into a COVID setting but instead, director Kirk Jameson trusts the overriding theme that is present in this piece; loneliness. Every one of the modern touches compliments, rather than distracts from the material. Benjamin Collins’ projections brilliantly fill the gaps in the storytelling, with instant messaging, emojis,
dating apps and social media filling the LED screen on the back wall. The final montage of both character’s Instagram feeds, both showing their false happiness is a powerful reminder of how we live our lives in this day and age. The show is brilliantly directed for the streamed event; the filming never feels like an afterthought and is peppered with interesting close-ups, transitions and camera angles.

This stunning two-hander is a must-see for any Sondheim fan.

Review by Ian Marshall

Rating: ★★★★★

Marry Me a Little is being streamed by The Barn Theatre from the 19th to 22nd November 2020, click here to buy tickets
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