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Review of Making Waves: A Song Cycle – The Hen & Chickens Theatre

Making Waves: A Song CycleSome of the characters are properly named in Making Waves: A Song Cycle, but not in the show’s programme, so I’ll keep faith with its producers and stick to what’s listed. Man 1 (Christopher Burgess) is the main narrator. I happen to know someone rather like Man 1, who tells me he likes to sit in, say, Green Park, and ‘watch people’, meaning to say he likes to observe people’s behaviour. I actually did this with him once, and sitting in an uncomfortable deck chair, for which there is a hire charge, all I could see were a group of tourists queuing for a sightseeing bus, another queue of Londoners queuing at a Transport for London bus stop, and others sat down having a picnic or just taking time out from the hustle and bustle of the capital.

Both my friend and Man 1 are infinitely more perceptive than I am, perhaps from their repeated and persistent observations. Man 1 talks about a couple he sees every day at a coffee shop, and in talking about their lack of variety in afternoon refreshment, he fails to realise he is guilty of the same thing. He more than redeems himself in some philosophical musings, particularly at the very start of the show, when the full company considers the relative shortness of life.

Just when the lack of actor-musicianship was getting surprisingly refreshing, in a world where song-heavy shows almost inevitably involve at least someone picking up a musical instrument (and, ultimately, why not?), Man 4 (Michael Dahl Rasmussen) almost orders the keyboardist (Daniel Cartwright) off-stage at one point for ‘I Can’t Write Love Songs’, which contained some highly morally dubious opinions, but only served to underline the song’s title. The dark humour was much appreciated by the audience.

Making Waves Company
Making Waves Company

Given the description in the show’s programme about this show “encapsulating the thoughts and feelings of everyday people in the hurdles of everyday life”, it’s slightly surprising quite how many of the numbers in this song-cycle concentrate on falling in and out of love. Where are the songs about things like commuting, standing in line at the Post Office, having to dodge ‘charity muggers’ on the capital’s streets, and those wretched self-service machines in supermarkets? The musical Title of Show has a hilarious song called ‘Filling Out The Form’, for instance, and then there’s that glorious showtune about a harrowing dream, ‘Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ The Boat’ from Guys and Dolls. More of that sort of thing would fit the hilarious nature of some of the proceedings. It’s when the show does humour that it shines brightest.

What brought the house down at the performance I attended was ‘Ginger’s Lament’, in which Man 2 (Taylor Rettke) almost has a nervous breakdown when describing all the derogatory terms he’s had to put up with. This proved somewhat educational and enlightening, at least for me: I’d never heard the term ‘burning bush’ in a ‘down below’ context before! Elsewhere, a performer would struggle a little on occasion with hitting every note required in a song, which demonstrates the sheer challenge set before them – this show is hardly a walk in the park.

Despite the disparate nature of the show – most, if not all, the performers play more than one character – it was never difficult to establish what sort of person each character was. I wasn’t at any point confused about setting, despite a set that did not change all that much during proceedings. Woman 2 (Abby Restall) performs ‘Fooling Myself’ excellently, while an earlier number, Friendzone, sees Man 1 and Man 4 taking a very different and joyous approach to the usual miserable response to being stood up.

Overall, the show isn’t exactly flawless, but it’s nonetheless an enjoyable and enchanting experience.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

The Hidden Theatre Company
Making Waves: A Song Cycle
@HiddenTheatreCo

Making Waves expresses the thoughts and feelings of everyday people.
It will pull at your heart-strings and make you laugh ’til you cry.
A brand new song cycle that everyone can relate to – a theatrical version of life!
18+
Booking to 7th August 2017
The Hen & Chickens Theatre in Islington
http://www.camdenfringe.com/

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