Fiver by Alex James Ellison & Tom Lees. Southwark Playhouse, London SE1 to 20 July. 3***. William Russell

By Alex James Ellison & Tom Lees.
Southwark Playhouse, the Small, 77-85 Newington Causeway, London SE1 6BD to 20 July 2019.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm. Mat Thu & Sat 3pm.
Runs 2hr One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7407 0234.

Review: William Russell 5 July.

Promising work in progress

Narrated by a busker played with style by Alex James Ellison this is a variation on La Ronde with instead of a bracelet passed from one to the next a £5 not is the common link between a varied assortment of recipients played by the four strong cast – Luke Bayer, Dan Buckley, Aoife Clesham and Hiba Elchikhe. As a showcase for their various talents it is fine and Tom Lees, who composed the score, provides a nicely varied collection of ballads and point numbers. He composed the score for Apartment 40C which I saw and liked some years back as a London Theatre Workshop production, also a tale of interlapping lives as a series of people ended up renting the same flat and what happened. This latest show survived a cruelly hot night in the very stuffy environment at Southwark pretty well, but it is still a work in progress and what it needs now is a director, not Lees, to take it by the scruff of the neck and lick it into shape. Essentially it is a collection of revue sketches, but in revue you need to know when to stop, to never milk a joke beyond its life span and too many of the scenes do go on far too long. Point made. Move on. The cast are good, but also need to learn to enunciate – all too often the lyrics were gabbled so that it was impossible to make out what was being sung. The fast numbers were especially bad for this. Since they were all miked, although there was no evidence the things were working, this is not good. At times one does wonder what those drama schools they have attended actually teach when it comes to singing. One encounters this all too often on the fringe. That said Hiba Elchikhe pretty well hit all the right buttons, Aoife Clesham was genuinely funny in spite of pulling too many faces, Luke Bayer sang sweetly and Dan Buckley displayed genuine charm.
A tendency to mug far too much marred some of the playing. There were sweet romantic meetings, tales of parental misunderstanding, life being bullied at school, partings and couplings. The mix was interesting, and Ellison made a most agreeable compere busker with a nice way of involving the audience in the goings on – the fiver spent some time in somebody’s hot little grasp as did a plot vital card with some numbers on it. The players all had talent aplenty, but talent alone is not enough – it needs a very firm directorial hand to prevent people going over the top, pulling too many funny faces – the audience may be in on the joke but one can cross the line there too and they did – and to think where the action should be placed. The simple set has a raised stage backed by a wall. The stage projects into the larger playing area and at times things that should have been happening on that stage were happening in the playing area.
But as a work in progress it has great promise – so back to the drawing board, find an independent eye to look at it and guide its future and Fiver could be – just possibly – the new Six.
Luke Bayer
Dan Buckley
Aoife Clesham
Hiba Elchikhe
Alex James Ellison
Director/musical director: Tom Lees.
Set Design: Justin Williams.
Sound Design: Chris Taunton.
Production photography: Danny With A Camera.

ReviewsGate Copyright Protection