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A Little Bit of Life at the Bread and Roses Theatre

A Little Bit of Life - Credit Symon Hamer
A Little Bit of Life – Credit Symon Hamer

A show largely set in the 1980s, with 1980s tunes galore, but without even mentioning Reagan, Thatcher or Gorbachev: how Eighties is this show? Well, very, if one was a high school student in the United States. Glitter Theatrical, presenting A Little Bit of Life, describe themselves as an ‘emerging theatre company’, and for a ‘debut project’, they have, quite adequately, played things a little safe.

“Hopefully we will have that happy ending – somehow”, muses the Fairy Godmother (Giorgio Borghes), the closest thing this production has to a pantomime dame. Both she and O’Brien (Laurence Watkins) possess immortality and would appear to be the sort of supernatural beings to be found in Shakespeare plays, able to substantially influence the day to day affairs of ordinary people.

The happy ending comes. Why, of course: it’s a musical. The staging is kept simple, with changes only to props, lighting and costumes during proceedings. There are also 320 lights on stage – twenty lights on each of sixteen strands. (I had time to count them: make of that what you will.) The Eighties chart music numbers come through, one after another. One gets the feeling they almost dominate the evening, as though the plotline is somewhat secondary to the live performances of songs from what is, just about, already a generation ago.

But just as relentless as the music are the frequent returns to the narrative: the songs rarely advance the plot forward, but rather mostly reinforce what has already been said. I only tend to listen to this sort of music if I treat myself to a minicab home after a show and the radio is on, but even I figured out that putting a character called Tommy (Damien Noyce) and another one called Gina (Saskia Burke) together, and making them an item, was going to lead to a rendering of Bon Jovi’s ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’ (1986), in which ‘Tommy’ and ‘Gina’ “hold on to what we’ve got”, and so on. The storyline holds water fairly well in the first half, but starts to unravel in the second, and in the final moments, I wasn’t entirely sure what occurred, or – more particularly – how, other than that the show comes around full circle to where it began. Sort of.

At the heart of the show are teenagers Marty (a suitably boyish Daniel Ghezzi) and Claire (Hannah Parkes), who meet at a party. Marty, rather unoriginally for an Eighties American student with a name like that, has a way of indulging in time travel (for those who need a memory jog: Back To The Future). Indeed, Marty can, as it turns out, indulge in whatever he wishes. Given ownership of a diary with magical powers, all Marty needs to do is write down his dreams and aspirations for them to come true. The diary has, it would appear, a way of knowing, presumably through the power of magic, whether Marty actually wishes for something to happen – there’s no point, therefore, writing something like ‘pigs will fly’ just for the novelty of seeing it materialise. What he does put down, alas, would be giving too much away.

The choreography (Becky Harrison) is energetic but subtle, suiting the studio space well. A highlight for me was a comically melodramatic set of movements to accompany ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ (1983). There may be some who long for the days when mobile telephones were not ubiquitous, and we didn’t have more emails than we could cope with. But the message of the show, if there is one, is that life is what we make of it, and it is up to us to live the best life that we can. Some of the American accents need a little more work, but that is a minor quibble in what is an entertaining and engaging night out.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

American high school teenager Marty finds himself stuck in a rut as he reaches the end of his schooling, that
is until teacher Mr. Robbins gives him a magical diary, in which everything he writes comes true. The
question is, will he wish for the wrong thing? As all of Marty’s dreams come true, including his one true love,
cheerleader and straight-A student Claire, he discovers the cost at which the diary comes, as well as Mr.
Robbins’ surprising, Madonna-esque alter ego.

Written and Directed by Mikolaj Chrobot, the show parodies everything we love and hate about the 1980’s
era. The show will include the choreography of Becky Harrison, assisted by Dance Captain Hazel Braken,
musical supervision of Lukas McCabe and the scenic design of Neil Hellard.
The show will also enlist a cast of top emerging and established musical theatre performers with international
experience, including Daniel Ghezzi as Marty, Hannah Parkes as Claire with Saskia Burke, Laurence
Watkins, Sara Galvin, Hazel Bracken and Hanne Evehammar.

Bread and Roses Theatre
from 11th – 15th December 2018


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