Sometimes when you review something an instinct kicks in, that it is going to be a marmite show? You either love it or hate it. So which side of the fence did I sit on?
Synopsis – Hendrix, Joplin, Cobain, Morrison and Winehouse: all music legends whose lives were tragically cut short at 27. Orpheus (Greg Oliver) is a would-be rock star turned icon whose experiences of fame and notoriety lead him on a journey of unstoppable self-destruction. Another name for the list. At the tender age of 27. Another star, extinguished… “27”, featuring 13 musical numbers and a cast of 15, is a shattering exploration of the fragility of life and the unwitting connections that bind us together. With original lyrics and score, this rock musical serves up songs to die for and killer guitar riffs and will take you somewhere you probably didn’t think existed anymore.
You would be right in thinking it doesn’t sound like a tremendously happy story to base a production on. However it’s the mystery and engulfing darkness of this musical that strangely pull’s you in. Greg Oliver takes the leading role of Orpheus who becomes damaged goods when he is exploited by the head of the record company also known throughout as Hedes (Ryan Molloy). What you witness is the creation of a group, a rise to fame and fortune. The Argonauts who are friends Max (Jack Donnelly) and Jason (Ryan Gibb) with frontman Orpheus. This story is cliched and stereotypical of your usual rise and falling stars. However it does explore the complexities of obsessive behaviour or rather what we all saw, in the self-destruction of stars such as Amy Winehouse and Janice Joplin. People who loved and cherished such huge talents, were powerless to stop, what everyone could see was inevitable and all at a such a young age 27.
Cassie Compton plays long-suffering, completely smitten girlfriend Amy to Oliver’s Orpheus. Petite Compton whose vulnerability is evident, leading her to extreme unhappiness. Her singing and acting powerfully strong, her unhappiness striking. Oliver as the lead gives every inch of a perfect performance his inner torment and torture, open and raw. Molloy as Hedes gives us a devilish act and his wide-eyed, unhinged extreme behaviour perfectly captured everyone’s vision of the demons within an addicts mind. A strong characterisation sometimes too uncomfortable to watch and very well performed. Donnelly and Gibb each play their individual roles well as does Lucy Martin as Ms M. Her scintillating, sinister and sexually charged performance had a simmering quality which gave you the feeling she would strike at any moment.
This is a rock musical and in parts sounded a cross between Tommy and We Will Rock You as did some of the costumes. The choreography by Ryan-Lee Seager and Lucy Martin was slick, harsh and aggressive which suited the mood of this deadly dark show. It is therefore no surprise to me that it also had the hallmark of Arlene Phillips, who co-directed along with the writer Sam Cassidy. The music by Matt Wills is heavy based rock with guitar riffs galore and all beautifully musically directed by Matt Nalton.
The set and lighting is an enormous rig for such a small space and made for an impossibly hot environment for cast and audience alike. In fact many of the performers were dripping with sweat which it could be said added to the intensity, but I found it a little distracting at times.
Returning to my original question of which side of the fence did I sit on – Well I enjoyed the evening and would encourage you to see it, if you enjoy rock music, creative dance and powerful vocals. However I’d urge you to wear as little as you can possibly get away with and then you will really get the full enjoyment of this new musical and its exploration into obsessive behaviour.
I can see that it could easily become a very addictive new musical!