SPINACH To 7 July.


by Janine Waters music by Simon Waters.

King’s Head Theatre 115 Upper Street N1 1QN To 7 July 2012.
Tue-Sat 7.15pm Sun 3pm.
Runs1hr 20min No interval.

TICKETS: 020 7478 0160.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 28 June.

High-fibre crime musical with harmonious outcome.
“Oh, shit”…”Up yours” – the things they get operatic about these days. Though this piece, which like some of its characters has come from Manchester (first sighting was in the Royal Exchange Studio there last year), is more accurately a musical at London’s home of OperaUpClose.

Kate and Tom have reason to be narked. They’re tied back-to-back without apparently knowing each other or how they got wherever they are. First fumblings for a context to their situation are set to fast-paced music reflecting their anxiously rapid speculations.

A reference to gangs brings a brief West Side Story reference in Simon Waters’ score. Later, as the pair repeatedly leap from their imprisonment to enact returning memories, the score acquires more melodic distinction, as well as variety of accompaniment – the dominant piano varied by banjo, elaborated by saxophone, with one sequence picking-out a series of recollections in tabor-like rhythmic patterns. There are moments, too, of rhyming dialogue; all signs of movement beyond the terse opening.

It’s a musical with a plot, neither more nor less incredible than many praised, if unsung, crime stories. Janine Waters’ script pacily patches together what’s happened, leading to changes in assumptions about events as Tom’s drugs-company colleague arrives, and the two strangers who started bound together develop emotional ties, the music sliding in more melodic expression without delaying the plot revelations.

It’s all well-sung, occasional moments of low volume (noticeably on lower phrases) more than outweighed by clarity in the sung words and the quality of unamplified voices. Ben Gerrard’s tall figure, rescued from dereliction by the generosity and trust of Cassandra Compton’s lithe and happy Kate, are sympathetic central figures, ably supported by Claire Greenway and Craig Whittaker.

With Jimmy Osborne’s Meat at Battersea’s Theatre 503, there’s a fair feast in London’s fringe theatres at the moment. And this is part of a healthy option, though it’s a piece in part about sickness and the bitterness it brings; there’s a Third Manish touch to the thriller-plot’s out-turn. But negativity’s outstripped by the positive as the pills and needles are put away for love to sing its say.

Kate: Cassandra Compton.
Tom Ben Gerrard.
Maureen: Claire Greenway.
Darren: Craig Whittaker.

Director: Janine Waters.
Designer: Kevin Freeman.
Lighting: Richard Williamson.
Sound: Benedict Almond.
Musical Director: Simon Waters.
Choreographer: Laura Asbury.

2012-06-29 00:01:44

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