The Belgrade Theatre in Coventry hosts the new musical, The Prodigals, directed and co-written by Joe Harmston. The show has previously been performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago, and the cast is now led by West End actor Simon Bowman.
The story is based on the biblical Parable of the Prodigal Son, which follows a father with two very different sons, the older who stays to work with the father and the younger who decides he wants a life elsewhere. The younger is given his inheritance money and before too long he frivolously spends it all, is faced with famine, and has to return home in the hope that he will be welcomed back in to his family. The Prodigals takes this story and brings in to a modern day setting: The father (Simon Bowman) and older son (Sam Ferriday) serve in the army, while the younger Kyle (Greg Oliver) chooses to become a singer/songwriter with family friend Kelly (Sarah Watson). Even though life in the army is strict, regimented and very controlled, Kyle and Kelly find their lives being controlled in a different way – by their experimentation and consequent addiction to heroin.
To my knowledge there is currently no other musical that specifically tackles these very real topics and a lot of research in to the workings of the army and the effects of drug addiction has clearly been carried out, so the creators should be applauded for that. Having said this, the script is jarring in places and could with more moments of showing rather than telling, particularly when it comes to interactions between the father and his two sons.
The song lyrics seem to lack originality and whilst they are performed very passionately and the vocals are of a high quality, they sound like songs we’ve heard before; they are missing that element of recognition, something that will make you instantly assign them to this musical as soon as you hear them.
Even with a West End star in their midst, Greg Oliver is the stand out performer and he captures the grittiness and heartbreak of his character’s tragic situation, and Sarah Watson’s vocals are beautifully soulful and extremely easy on the ears. In addition, the three heroin fairies bring a much needed comedy element to the show and they work well as a trio.
The show has some way to go before it could reach the West End, but for a night of entertainment The Prodigals delivers. It brings light to subjects that we all too readily turn a blind eye to and it is a unique piece of theatre. If you’re a traditionalist when it comes to musicals it may not be for you, but if you’re ready for something new and explosive, you should check it out.
Review by Bethaney Rimmer
Written by Ray Goudie and Joe Harmston Directed by Joe Harmston
Fri 30th August to Saturday 14th September 2013
Matinees: Wednesday 11th Sept, Saturday 7th and 14th September 2.30pm
Box Office: email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Telephone: 024 7655 3055
Friday 6th September 2013