“Love will break your heart…”
Midsummer [a play with songs] is a 2008 show that started life at the Edinburgh Festival but has managed to translate that into genuine success with a successful London run at the Soho Theatre, taking it the USA and other productions opening worldwide. This original team returns to London for a residency in another theatre known for its lack of reserved seating, the Tricycle, ahead of going to Australia.
The tale of a crazy weekend in Edinburgh told from two perspectives: Bob, a petty criminal and Helena, a divorce lawyer, both 35 and thrown together in unlikely circumstances, it crystallises so many concerns of the 30-somethings who suddenly come to realise that middle age cannot be escaped and the person who they thought they were going to be is looking right back at them in the mirror. And in creating this lovely picture of two people connecting despite their differences, it portrays a beautifully realistic acceptance of the realities of finding a partner rather than the heady idealistic romanticised view so often seen elsewhere.
I saw this show back in January at the Soho Theatre and I must have told everyone I know about it and got them a good few extra tickets sales as I absolutely adored it: you can read what I thought of it back then here. It may just be that I’ve seen too much this year to remember the detail of something from January, but there didn’t seem to be any significant changes to the show, perhaps a clearer sense of the geography of the show, certainly nothing major.
Obviously entirely comfortable in their roles, there’s a beautiful ease about the performances of both Bissett and Pidgeon, both remarkably fresh and energetic and not at all jaded but clearly particularly relishing the unique edge that the foray into the audience adds and sharing a giggle over getting tangled up with one of the guitars. Bissett really does shine as she covers many little comic parts as well as Helena and Pidgeon throws himself into the hapless but lovable Bob with great abandon and between them, they never let the momentum of the show drop no matter what they are having to do.
Greig’s writing is perfectly judged: always sharply witty, he switches between first and third person to allow a little more exploration of the internal thought processes of our protagonists and there’s a great teasing quality in the way Bob’s fantasies and interpretations are presented. Cynicism is always tempered with humour, the profound debates treated with the lightest of touches, this show really does put a smile on the face time after time.
It revels in its lo-fi indie music roots, the title even alludes to it in decrying the term musical in favour of ‘a play with songs’ and in some respects you see the point as the songs do not progress the action but rather set the atmosphere and allow for rumination which rather fits the philosophical mood of the show. But whether you choose to call it a play with songs or a musical for those who think they don’t like musicals, this is a wonderfully warm-hearted, imaginative show that fully deserves your attention.
Running time: 105 minutes (without interval)
Programme cost: £3.50
Booking until 29th January
Note: some bad language and ‘scenes of an sexual nature’ as they say, probably a 15-rated show