Songs for a New World

Wed 23rd – Sat 26th October 2013

reviews

Jack Pulman-Slater

at 08:56 on 24th Oct 2013

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As you enter the theatre, the cast and band are already onstage “warming up”, which seems like a nice touch at first, but also a tad contrived and unconvincing. Unfortunately this sets a precedent for the small glimpses of acting the audience receive between the songs, which are are awkward and stilted. The default expressions for the singers seem to be of immense physical pain or wistful sideways smiles as they aimlessly flick through a rack of costumes or lean on the piano like they’re in a scene from ‘Glee’. When they are in full singing swing they are vocally and visually quite amazing, and hit the audience with a powerful choral catharsis. However their vocal talent is broken up by gratuitous bridges between songs, the most painful of which is the director/producer popping out to call up to the lighting box or shout a command and then stand like a pointless parrot in the background.

Exactly what the theme or themes of this piece are is anyone’s guess; the focus of the songs’ messages frenetically skips and flits about leaving the audience with a muddled compost heap of ideas, messages and themes which can’t be picked apart. Apparently ‘what starts as the creative exploration of new worlds, accessed by the simple power of imagination, soon takes hold as the lines between actor and character merge’. Beyond the actors constantly removing costumes from songs and symbolically donning their own coats, how these lines are shown to be merged is unclear. The very words ‘new world’ are so endlessly repeated that is becomes a very old and known world, which does not ‘shock or surprise’ as intended.

The music itself is good; if you close your eyes you could be on Broadway. But the lyrics are an endless cycle of repeated words and images; every song mentions flying, dreams, mountains, moons and streams, whilst ‘dreams get burnt out overnight’ and everyone’s got a ‘blessing in their heart’. It’s essentially like ‘Wicked’, but without the flying monkeys or witches. The audience were fidgety and took a long time to warm-up. Only when we were presented with the sexually frustrated wife of Father Christmas did we really start to applaud with any conviction.

Whether ‘Songs for a New World’ works as a stage production is something you’ll have to decide for yourself, but my impression is that it doesn’t. Throwing songs, costumes, lights and a band together doesn’t result in a stage production. It’s very difficult to understand why Clare Actors brought this to the ADC stage. The cast have beautiful voices; Eavan Prenter‘s is just formidable and Lauren Hutchinson’s scenes and songs deserved a better audience response than they got. When they sing together, they sound stunning. If I see these people are singing in anything else this year, I will go and see it. However, ‘Songs for a New World’ is not the best introduction to these very talented people. You can’t help but feel that they could have given Cambridge a truly amazing night out at the theatre if they’d been in a different show and not had to sing such repetitive and predictable lyrics. Overall, some amazing voices in the wrong show.

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