I’ll never underestimate the power of social media, especially when it opens doors to some exciting theatre right on my doorstep. I was contacted by Ordinary Days to see their musical production along with my partner Sam. This musical has also appeared a number of times Off-West End, the first being in 2011 and the most recent appearance took place at the London Theatre Workshop, a stone’s throw away from Monument station.
We arrived with a few minutes to spare, a quick pee (because all of a sudden I now have my mother’s bladder) and a chance to take in my surroundings. The theatre itself was located on the top floor and whilst climbing the staircase, it made me think we’d stepped into a hotel by accident. Once we got up there, we went through a doorway that literally placed us on the stage. I love theatres like this because they aren’t your typical West End theatre venue, they are quaint, intimate and I feel that we as an audience have a closer connection to the performers – that and we’re pretty much right up in their faces. Poor things.
The story is set in New York and follows the lives of four people, each struggling to settle into the big apple and how their ordinary lives – ha, go figure – connect in the most surprising of ways.
Space was obviously quite limited as it was probably only around a 30-40 seat venue. The props and set used were very minimal with just two black blocks that the performers would use in their scenes. It very much required the imagination of the audience, to dress the scene, which being a thespian myself, I really liked.
The music was merely the MD (musical director for those who don’t know the theatre lingo) playing the keyboard. It was very simple, very upbeat and light but also included a few sombre numbers. I loved ‘Dear Professor Thompson’ which was a hilariously performed account of a student called Deb trying to draft an e-mail to her tutor to ask for an extension on her thesis. Claire’s final song ‘I’ll Be Here’ was a stunning number that solved the mystery of the character’s reservations of moving in with her boyfriend. Overall, the numbers were beautifully performed, worked well with just the one instrument as a backing and the harmonies really shone through during the group numbers.
Claire played by Kirby Hughes was performed beautifully and I felt as an audience member, the journey of her character really engaged me till the very end. Claire is struggling with the thought that her boyfriend, Jason, has just moved into her small apartment and fears that things are moving too fast. The audience is left wondering whether this is just some mid-life crisis or if there might be a deeper, underlying reason as to why she’s afraid of moving forward. It’s not until the end that we learn Claire lost her previous partner, her fiance, in a fire. Suddenly everything makes perfect sense and Kirby made sure this moment really defined Claire’s turning point and her acceptance of the past.
Jason is Claire’s partner and is a typical laid back guy. He’s all smiles and why shouldn’t he be, when he’s finally moved in with his girlfriend? Played by Alistair Frederick, Jason unknowingly is pushing Claire in the direction that she doesn’t want to go, even proposing to her in the heat of the moment. Alistair is a polished performer and his voice paired very well when singing with Kirby. Jason’s a very likeable character and Alistair made sure he came off that way rather than some arrogant boyfriend you wanted to punch in the face.
Deb took a couple of scenes to get used to and I think that might have been because of Nora Perone. At first, I wasn’t sure whether she was carrying herself as well as Kirby was, but that was quickly quashed when she performed the ‘Dear Professor Thompson’ numbers that allowed Nora to really bring out her wacky, hilarious personality. Nora I think is naturally talented at comedy and she knows how to time the lines to get the best laughs. Also her facial expressions had me in a few stitches and by the end, I really wanted to be Deb’s best friend. Life would never be boring!
Finally and by no mean’s least, there’s Warren. Warren is the first character who makes his appearance, giving out leaflets to less than engaging New Yorkers. Warren really is at the center of the story and is the connection that brings everyone together, allowing them all to move forward in the right direction. Played by Neil Cameron, Neil had quite a high-pitched, soft voice which again, like Nora, took me a little while to warm up to. However, by the end, Joel had transformed Warren into a character that shows there’s more to him than meets the eye, becoming a good friend to Deb and finally finding a path for himself to pursue.
Overall, this was a great musical that is very much relatable to us as Londoners. In a highly competitive and over-subscribed city, we can easily become lost and lose our sense of direction but sometimes the guidance of strangers could be all we need.
Thanks Ordinary Days for having me along!