RENT

Thu 12th – Sat 21st March 2015

reviews

Elizabeth Crowdy

at 01:36 on 13th Mar 2015

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I had never seen Rent before when I went to this year's ADC production, and had little idea of the plot, songs or characters involved. I was pleased to discover an engaging and enthusiastic show, with a stunning cast and obviously hard-working backstage team.

The singing was the most prominent part of the musical, as spoken conversation was infrequent. The cast were consistently strong, with impressive vocal stamina throughout. This was only marred by the sound quality: though radio mics were used effectively, the balancing did not cater for the strengths of various voices in the cast, and those with particularly powerful voices sometimes became painfully loud. However, as the singers become accustomed to the sound and the sound engineers to the singers throughout the run, this will no doubt rectify itself. Zak Ghazi-Torbati (Collins), Jossie Evans (Joanne) and Jonah Hauer-King (Roger) stood out with impressive voices, which had subtlety as well as power to add depth to the ensemble.

The band (led by musical directors Stephen Gage and James Bartlett) shone in this performance. They were not concealed behind a great deal of scenery, allowing the audience to appreciate the more operatic elements of the production, and the close interaction between the singers and band. There was obvious joy in the lively ensemble numbers such as ‘La Vie Bohème’, even to the extent where this number went on for a considerable amount of time. The popular ‘Seasons of Love’ was well executed, and was especially well received.

The production was surreal, yet intensely human, moving between emotional scenes of suffering caused by HIV, homelessness and drug use, and hilarious audience participation in Maureen’s cow sequence. The plot was sometimes hard to follow, especially as diction was sometimes lost in the microphones, but the dynamic use of space and quick pace maintained momentum and the interest of the audience. The set design was well thought out: the stairs leading up to a higher level made the whole space interesting, and gave the actors room to make interactions varied and convincing. It would have been easy to make the staging too intricate in a large production such as this, but the use of simple and effective staging additions such as the descending metal fence and long table prevented the aesthetic becoming overwhelming. The actors had a vibrant space in which to portray their characters without anything becoming cluttered.

The show picked up pace towards the end, with Collins’ interruption of arguments between various couples on the day of Angel’s funeral forming a heartbreakingly profound scene. The grief at the loss of Angel’s energy and exuberance was moving as the characters continued trying to solve their own problems, and Hauer-King’s rendition of ‘Your Eyes’ was honest and beautifully simple. When the minor sound and technical issues are resolved, this will be a truly remarkable production.

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