The Battersea Barge has seen quite a few cabarets over the summer but the producers behind the latest – Summer with the Composers – have taken things a step further and offered a live-streaming service of the show, completely free of charge, with which it could be enjoyed from the comfort of your own home. I’m not technologically minded enough to know whether it was my laptop being slow or the recording itself that wasn’t the clearest quality, but it feels churlish to complain that it wasn’t crystal clear considering it was all free and in any case, the sound quality was excellent.
The evening was focused on four leading lights of new British musical theatre writing: Grant Olding, Dougal Irvine, Laurence Mark Wythe and Tim Sutton and showcasing their work in a variety of ways from shows that have made it onto the stage, shows that are still in development, some which never made it out of the rehearsal room and a few one-offs, including one written especially for the Dress Circle Benefit gig a couple of weeks ago. Special guests Samantha Barks, Annalene Beechey, George Ure and Stephen Ashfield sang a selection of the songs but the composers themselves also had a go at singing each other’s songs.
Highlights for me included Stephen Ashfield returning to Laurence Mark Wythe’s ‘Tomorrow Morning with The Dream’ (although in a much amended version since he last sang it!); Samantha Barks and George Ure duetting on ‘Turn Your Head’ from Through The Door and Annalene Beechey’s quietly moving ‘Hannah’s Song’. It would have been nice to hear more from Ashfield but Samantha Barks really did have a great evening though – her ‘Simply Cinderella’ from one of Grant Olding’s shows was fantastic – she has developed into something of a fascinating performer and I’d love to see her onstage in something modern and musical. It was also interesting to hear the little snippets of conversation in-between songs, talking about the various ways in which their shows had been supported and developed whether through agencies like Perfect Pitch or through crowdsourcing resources like WeFund.
As a relatively low-key experiment, this was quite the success and I quite enjoyed the treat of being able to enjoy the sounds of this show, celebrating much of the potential that currently lies in British musical theatre writing, from the comfort of my own home. As a sustainable model, I’m not sure where the future lies for this as increased demand would have its own issues on bandwidth and any thought of payment would have to be in conjunction with improved image quality. But it is an interesting foray into new ways of presenting material and widening its reach that should be celebrated and supported as it finds its way.