I hope it is not too much to ask for a good portion of a production billed as a musical to be expressed through song. This Little Life of Mine very quickly asserted itself as a play with songs rather than a musical: after a hopelessly short overture, came a long scene, entirely in spoken dialogue. What went on was absorbing enough more often than not, such that the book was essentially much stronger than the music and lyrics. This in turn, resulted in what songs there were adding little, if anything, to what the spoken dialogue had already firmly established. The songs were therefore quite pointless, and the whole thing could have run its course as a straight play. Instead I found myself patiently waiting for songs to finish so the story could resume. It was rather like waiting in line at the Post Office.
It is difficult to ascertain why more songs could not have been written to drive the narrative forward. The opening number, when it finally came, demonstrated the show’s potential to be a decent and solid musical, but what followed immediately after was merely a determined attempt to be funny, with varying degrees of success. In essence, the show tries too hard, and introduces too many themes, such that it cannot sustain them all to the finishing line. There were several missed opportunities for a tune to have been fashioned out of a scene, and by the end I failed to see what the point of much of the first half was. The second half was far superior to the first, proving that it is sometimes worth sticking around for Act Two even if tempted to cut one’s losses at the interval.
A barista, Raphael (Greg Barnett), was such a hammed up character that any sense of realism, in a play apparently set in contemporary London, dissipates. Some very long and very dull descriptions of items on a coffee shop’s menu began by being a send-up of the pretentious nature of such menus, but rapidly turned into some sort of filler. Good shows would not attempt to pad out proceedings. I also note a far too long exploration of sexual relations in the first half. While it has a loose connection to one of two ‘critical incidents’ in the show, the vast majority of the discourse on sex could have been axed without penalty to the rest of the story. At one point, the thought came across my mind that this is a show that may have more accurately titled Let’s Talk About Sex.
There are a large number of scene changes, making the show disjointed as it flits about, and it was harder work than it ought to have been to establish time and place with each change. At the heart of the play (for, as I say, a play is what this show really is) is a young couple, Jonesy (James Robinson) and Izzy (Kate Batter). Quips from Jonesy’s mother (Caroline Deverill) seemed bizarre at best and outmoded and outright offensive at worst, not so much in what was said but in the audience laughter that followed it. What a pity that in this day and age a borderline homophobic quip still raises a good laugh.
Some sparing but effective use of video and still image projections adds some colour to a largely monochrome production. Otherwise, there are no memorable tunes or lyrics that stick in the mind. A tight company of just four do their best with what they are given, but I learnt nothing new from this show. This may have been “the birth of a brand new British musical”, as the show’s publicity would have it but it appears to have attempted to run before it can walk.
Review by Chris Omaweng
This Little Life of Mine
Take a bitingly funny and deeply touching tour of modern London life with Izzy and Jonesy. With exciting jobs, great friends and even a tiny overpriced flat in Zone 2 – they’ve got it all. Or do they? Maybe having a baby is the one last thing that would make everything perfect. Or perhaps life has other ideas…
We’re all busy people chasing our dreams and looking for instant gratification from the things we do – our online posts, our careers, our loves and our lovers. We’re told we can have anything we like, and that we have more choices than any other generation in history.
Set against an instantly recognisable backdrop of eye-watering house prices, unreliable dating apps, and over-friendly coffee baristas, This Little Life of Mine looks at what happens when we can’t have everything that we want.
The book for This Little Life of Mine is written by Michael Yale, who will also be directing this World Premiere. The music is written by Charlie Round-Turner, with set and costume design by Zahra Mansouri, choreography by Tracy Allsop, lighting design by Joules McCready, video artistry by Jack Henry James, and musical direction by Thomas Duchan.
The full cast for This Little Life of Mine is Greg Barnett (Raphael/Dom/Tom/Steve/Doctor), Kate Batter (Izzy), Caroline Deverill (Tina/Fiona/Margaret/Receptionist), and James Robinson (Jonesy).
Stage Traffic Productions Ltd in association with Park Theatre present the World Premiere of
This Little Life Of Mine
by Michael Yale with music by Charlie Round-Turner
Plays until: 29 Oct 2016