Sam Cassidy’s provocatively genius creation 27: The Rise of a Falling Star explodes into the intimate fringe space at The Cockpit Theatre, Marylebone, with the kind of stomping energy and vibrant presence of a new production that has ‘here to stay’ written all over it. World-renowned director and choreographer Arlene Philips lends her stellar expertise as director to this smashing new rock musical, having been impressed from the get go by early demos of the score played to her by Cassidy.
The first question to ask of theatre goers wishing to understand the concept, is: ‘what do you know about the 27 club?’, the “27 club” being a phrase referring to the bizarre fact that many hugely popular and influential musicians have died at the age of 27, as a result of drug abuse, alcohol misuse and the trappings of fame and success. Our muses, as we enter The Cockpit on press night, are Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Amy Winehouse, Kurt Cobain, their photos and stories all over the walls; their paths of torment all different but with one common thread connecting them; they were 27….
So the mood is then set as we enter the tiny theatre space, floodlit with purple lighting and minimally set with sparse scaffolding. We are thrust into our protagonist’s world from the moment the first gritty, rocky chords ring out around the space. Orpheus, intelligently portrayed by Greg Oliver, is a wannabe rock star who would do anything for the fame and glory, along with his bandmates Max and Jason – the talented Jack Donnelly and Ryan Gibb, respectively.
Orpheus’ loyal girlfriend Amy is sensitively and beautifully portrayed by Cassie Compton, her character offering us a window of insight into the emotional journey inflicted upon the loved ones of an ambitious artist, when the artist’s star begins to rise and they continue to spiral, all the while losing touch with reality…
Greg Oliver’s character arc as Orpheus is rich and patterned, and a particularly memorable moment is his solo which opens the second act – so gritty and meaningful that sometimes his voice is imperfect with the raw weight of the emotion – and it totally works.
Two actors who deliver real ‘high stake,’ stunning performances are Ryan Molloy as the dark and conniving Hades, his portrayal peppered with perfect comedic timing. Secondly, Lucy Martin as the Ms. M is just jaw-dropping – insidious, sexually charged, stunning and dangerous, you cannot take your eyes off of her.
The bloodthirsty chorus of dancers are electrifying. Staccato, zombie-like and contemporary, the choreography totally lifts every scene that these creatures of the underworld inhabit – a special mention goes to Alice Martin of the chorus, for a particularly stand out and committed ‘zombie’ performance. “27”’s musical score is totally bewitching – shout outs to Matts Wills and Matt Nalton, who together have created some truly clever, original and hard-hitting songs that linger in the mind long after they’ve been and gone.
The three vocalists encompassing ‘Fate’ are absolutely stellar – massive vocal ranges, coloured with passion and emotion that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand on end – on more than one occasion, the audience were rapturous after the three women – Maisey Bawden, Eloise Davies and Jodie Jacobs – had concluded their songs of doom, looming down at us from the very top of the scaffolding set, adorned in ominous black hoods.
Engaging, compelling and touching yet punctuated with sparkles of humour in all the right places, 27 has all the makings of a smash hit musical, with a cast and direction that lift this original concept into a stratosphere of it’s own, truly paying homage to the many greats that have passed way before their time. Get down to The Cockpit and see 27 in this gem of a little venue, before it (no doubt) will transfer to a larger space, ‘smashing’ it equally as hard.
Review by Louise Czupich
27: RISE OF A FALLING STAR
A tragedy, a love story, a hero’s quest for salvation.
An intoxicating new musical, 27 is a modern fable of our time, a dark interpretation of one of humanity’s oldest stories.
Hendrix, Joplin, Cobain, Morrison and Winehouse: all music legends whose lives were tragically cut short at 27. And Orpheus: would-be rock star turned icon – whose experience of fame and notoriety lead him on a journey of unstoppable self-destruction.
A shattering exploration of the fragility of life and the unwitting connections that bind us together, this rock musical with original lyrics and score serves up songs to die for and killer guitar riffs that will take you somewhere you probably didn’t think existed anymore…..
Another name for the list. At the tender age of 27. Another star, extinguished.
Written by Sam Cassidy and Matt Wills
Directed by Sam Cassidy
Co-Directed by Arlene Phillips
Thursday 8th September to Saturday 22nd October