Review: Drive Ride Walk, Greenwich Theatre

“I can’t believe I’m falling again”

Drive Ride Walk is a piece of new musical theatre from Filament Theatre by Osnat Schmool, developed from a two-song 10-minute sketch into this hour-long show which combines 9-person acapella singing with physical theatre about commuting in London. It follows three different journeys through the capital: a cyclist winding her way through the traffic who has a chance encounter with a handsome pedestrian, a newly-qualified driver taking friends for a drive and a group of commuters who have to deal with an unexpected change to their daily routine.

It is very loosely structured and freeform in its nature, both in terms of its story-telling and the music itself and so to be honest, it proved to be quite a trying experience in all. Schmool’s score is rather flat, accompanied occasionally by cello and accordion but mainly eschewing songs for densely-packed vocal lines and murkily repeated phrases which resembled nothing so much as vocal doodling rather than bursting with musicality. My reaction to it reminded me of how I felt about John Adams’ I Was Looking At The Ceiling… in that whatever it is about certain kinds of music that appeals to some just flies right over my head. I just couldn’t see what they were trying to achieve here and though it was only an hour, it felt much longer.

It didn’t help that there was little sense of meaningful plot or character progression presented to us. There’s a lot of little glimpses into the daily lives of our group of protagonists and the hints of interesting stories suggested, Jon-Paul Hevey’s flirty stranger and Stuart King’s call centre worker promised some interest, but none of them are really pursued to any depth which left me frustrated about what could have been. And whilst it accurately portrays the mundanity of travelling around a busy city, by not providing anything more of substance, it doesn’t offer any reason to care about what is happening.

Things were exacerbated by the use of movement which was too rarely amusing, the etiquette (or lack thereof) of packed tubes and crowded zebra-crossings was wryly observed although hardly anything new, and too often painfully laboured. Whilst there was nothing to match the infamous simulation of sex through watering cans, the sequence in which the quote at the top was repeated and demonstrated by, you’ve guessed it, everyone falling over and over again and again in the stagiest of manners drove me to distraction.

The ensemble of nine were enthusiastic and delivered a tightly knit performance but that wasn’t enough to win me over with a show which really did feel like a work-in-progress rather than a fully-fledged work. Even the way in which the local choir was co-opted into some scenes felt like a wasted opportunity as they were barely used at all (although perhaps understandable if they are using a new choir local to each venue they visit). It is a bit mean but I cannot resist the bad pun: sadly this a show to drive, ride or walk right past.

Running time: 1 hour (without interval)
Programme cost: £2
Booking until 26th February then playing Stratford Circus and Jackson’s Lane.

Review: Hello, Dolly!, Open Air Theatre

Ending this year’s run of shows at the Open Air Theatre in Regent’s Park is a revival of the Jerry Herman musical Hello, Dolly! It is a classic piece, and its presentation here is respectful of that and delivers a straight up rendition mercifully free of irony. Hello, Dolly! is not for people who claim that they don’t like musicals. It is old-school Broadway singing and dancing through and through and about as much fun on a stage as you could imagine: there is no place for cynicism here.

Admittedly, I did not see it in the heights of summer when one might expect a slightly better chance of sunshine, but one did start to question the methods of the Open Air Theatre on rainy days, as the stagehands were made to work extremely hard, wiping down the stage diligently four times in 45 minutes before the actual start of the show. One began to feel so sorry for them as it seemed every time they finished a new shower would begin. Fortunately, the sheer joy of the production meant that the conditions were soon forgotten.

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