With a ‘heart on sleeve’ honesty that’s warming to the core, The Off Key is a modern musical that offers genuine laugh out loud moments, tear-jerkers, and everything in-between.
It’s the oldest tale known to man; boy and girl meet, fall in love, have monogamy issues, and have a long and messy breakup. But told through the medium of pop/rock/musical theatre songs in an acoustic singer/songwriter performance style.
The show advertises that it “begins where most love stories end” and in fairness, it’s a more familiar timeline that we’re presented with overall but that aside, what The Off Key does offer us is an uncompromisingly modern take on this ‘old standard’.
Scott Mackie takes us to open-mic and fringe-gig style settings where the musicians’ patter and song lyrics, both often coarse but never crass, tell us both sides of a love story from hopeful beginnings to an unfortunately unhappy end. Both the settings and the language style are disarming and engaging in equal measure. Feeling natural and comfortable at a level not often encountered, Mackie draws in the audience and before you know it, we’re all along for the ride, laughing and cheering at all the right times.
Musically, The Off Key does an impressive job with very little. An acoustic guitar and Mackie and co-star Molly Glynn-Whitehead’s complimentary vocals paint the entire picture in vivid colour. With accessible songwriting, it’s easy to find familiar elements in the songs from whatever your personal tastes are and if they ever release the soundtrack, it would sit happily alongside The Last 5 Years in my collection.
And the music isn’t the only area where this production does a lot with a little. Using only a couple of chairs, mic stands and the in-house lighting, it’s once again the show’s quality writing that sets the scene for us. And for the most part, there’s little confusion. Occasionally the interplay between the characters is a little unclear, and I may never fully decipher the timeline, but a few forgivable elements are just that; forgivable.
Sure, it feels a bit like the lockdown references are thrown in for ‘current events appeal’ and will only serve to make the production unnecessarily dated before it’s time and sure, the narrative could be a bit clearer. But that largely pales into insignificance when the rest of the writing is this good. One to watch.
Review by Damien Russell
The Off Key
by Scott Mackie
The Off Key is a love story that begins where most love stories end.
Sam and Liv are songwriters trying to balance their careers and their new relationship in post lockdown London.
They communicate through their music when words aren’t enough, or when the truth is too hard to speak.
They sing with each other, for each other and about each other in this new original musical exploring loss, love and the paradoxical desire to switch off the very feelings that make us human.
“I’ve been thinking a lot about narratives lately. And the stories we tell ourselves, y’know? Who’s right and who’s wrong? Anyway. This song is called Are You Leaving Me Or Are You Just Being A C**t?”