Review: Midnight, Union Theatre

A striking new musical at the Union Theatre based on Elchin’s Citizens of Hell, Midnight is enthralling, entertaining and exciting 

“If these walls could talk, well they’d probably just scream”

We all like to think that we would be part of the resistance if we were living under a repressive regime but the truth is, that kind of pressure is unimaginable unless that suffocating terror is a part of every waking moment, where life or death decisions mean exactly that. This is the milieu that Midnight exists in – Soviet Azerbaijan as 1937 draws to a close – where every knock on the door brings with it the threat of the secret police.

Based on Elchin’s play Citizens of Hell, Laurence Mark Wythe (music and lyrics) and Timothy Knapman’s (book and lyrics) musical adaptation is so very good at translating the eerie strangeness of this world and is a supremely confident new musical to boot. Essentially a three-handed psychological thriller, Kate Golledge’s production is superbly enhanced by the use of a ghostly actor-musician ensemble who complement and complicate the existence that our central couple have set up for themselves. Continue reading “Review: Midnight, Union Theatre”

Review: Midnight, St James

“If these walls could speak, they’d probably scream”

It’s not every day that you get an invitation to a musical set in Azerbaijan so I was certainly intrigued to hear about Midnight, receiving a workshop presentation by Aloff Theatre and directed by Matthew Gould in the cosy space of the studio at the St James Theatre. With book and lyrics by Timothy Knapman and music and lyrics by Laurence Mark Wythe (probably best known for Tomorrow Morning), the musical is based on the play Citizens of Hell by Azerbaijani writer Elchin (who for a day job just happens to be the Deputy Prime Minister there!).

Set in Baku in 1937 with the Soviet Union in gripped in the midst of Stalin’s Great Terror, every knock on every door brings with it the fear of being disappeared by the NKVD. And this New Year’s Eve is no different as a husband and wife pace about their flat, debating how – or if – to celebrate when friends and neighbours have been tortured and executed. When the knock finally comes, it isn’t necessarily who they’re expecting but the eventual chilling realisation of who their visitor is and the chaos he can unleash is even worse.  Continue reading “Review: Midnight, St James”

Album Review: Tomorrow Morning (Original London Cast Recording)

“How the hell could you expect us to fight and then connect”

The magic of a good set design – Chris De Wilde’s innovative use of the space of the Landor for their production of Tomorrow Morning is still crystal-clear in my mind despite being nearly five years and god knows how many shows ago. Laurence Mark Wythe’s show premiered four years before that though in 2006 at Hampstead’s now-defunct New End Theatre and that production, directed by Nick Winston and MD Matthew Brind, got the official cast recording treatment.

The show tracks a day in the life of John and Kat, 20-somethings on the verge of getting married, and Jack and Catherine who are older and about to get divorced. Are they the same couple at different stages in their relationship or two separate couples, well that would be telling but Wythe’s book, lyrics and music take us through a range of musical influences to paint the vast scope of emotional experiences on display here. Continue reading “Album Review: Tomorrow Morning (Original London Cast Recording)”

Review: Summer with the Composers, Battersea Barge via britishtheatre.tv

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. Continue reading “Review: Summer with the Composers, Battersea Barge via britishtheatre.tv”

Music Review: Stuart Matthew Price – All Things In Time

“Am I wishing for too much?”

Stuart Matthew Price, currently to be found in the ensemble of Shrek The Musical, has long carried the (potentially) dubious honour of being named one of the brightest upcoming stars of British musical theatre since wowing people in Parade at the Donmar Warehouse in 2007 and since then has been quietly carving out an interesting career, more often than not choosing to highlight lesser-known musical theatre writing. And so too does he do here on his debut album, All Things in Time featuring a selection of the cream of new musical theatre writing, including himself as he is a composer as well as performer.

Dougal Irvine’s beautifully relaxed ‘The Touch of Love’ was a surprising highlight for me: I’d usually plump for piano arrangements every time but Irvine’s light touch (ba-dum) works wonders here to make this a great track. And followed by Laurence Mark Wythe’s Goodnight Kiss, the album really does come off as a fabulous showcase for interesting writing: both of these songs standing up excellently individually, but also suggesting interesting musicals that might accompany them. Likewise, Stiles & Drewe’s ‘Wishing For The Normal’, a characterful duet with Caissie Levy, and Grant Olding’s ‘Midnight Will Happen Without Us’ are other great signs of the health of new British musical writing. Continue reading “Music Review: Stuart Matthew Price – All Things In Time”

Review: Tomorrow Morning, Landor Theatre

“Sometimes you’ve got to take hold of your life”

First shown at the New End Theatre in 2006, Tomorrow Morning is a new contemporary musical from British writer Laurence Mark Wythe which is now playing at the Landor Theatre in Clapham. It had a successful run in Chicago in 2008 which saw quite a few changes being introduced so this is a welcome opportunity to see this charming show in its new incarnation with a superb cast. I took advantage of the half-price preview offer so this is a review of a preview performance from 16th October.

Wythe wrote the music, lyrics and book to this four-hander which follows two couples on the eve of life-changing events. One, Kat and John, are bundles of nerves, stressing out about their impending marriage and their life ahead; the other, John and Catherine, are older, more world-weary as they prepare to sign their divorce papers. Contrasting the headiness of young love and new beginnings with the realities of maintaining a marriage, the show offers a thoughtful, universal look into relationships with some genuinely appealing characters and some moving revelations. Continue reading “Review: Tomorrow Morning, Landor Theatre”