Animus by Trinity Laban
Animus by Trinity Laban at Laban Theatre
As a huge advocate of the arts and the power of it I am a massive believer that an important way to support the arts is to support those coming through their training. I was lucky enough to be invited to Trinity Laban’s 3rd year production of new musical Animus.
Animus is by Michael Webborn and Daniel Finn, names you may recognise as the writers of The Clockmaker’s Daughter. It was a musical I knew nothing about and it was enjoyable to discover a new show. A show that is a cross between a traditional murder mystery and Wildhorn’s Jekyll & Hyde.
Animus, set in 1757, tells of the Donne family who we meet immediately after the passing of their father. Expectations are that the family business will pass to the only son, Adam, however this is turned on its head when it passes to Charlotte, the eldest daughter. Charlotte soon gets mixed up with murderers, robbers and prostitutes and the family unravels before her eyes.
The show itself isn’t the best showcase for the students. The book is stilted and contains jokes that don’t sit well with the overarching themes of Animus. Much of the dialogue within the scenes are over dramatic and therefore causes the students not to be able to develop a genuinely moving style of acting. Animus seems to suffer with a bit of an identity crisis, not knowing if it wants to be taken seriously or if the focus should be on humour. The plot itself, although convoluted, was an interesting one and the gags just cheapened it. Despite the huge themes of loss within the show I didn’t care enough about any of the characters within the show, another result of the weak book.
None of the above is the fault of the students and they did their best with the material given. In the production I saw, Charlotte Donne was played by Molly Osborne. What is indisputable is that Osbourne had a fantastic voice. Her number in Act 2 ‘Motives Part 2’ showed off this off brilliantly, including a belt that many working professionals would be envious of.
One actress I also adored was Simone Sullivan who played Fanny Penhaligon (I refer back to the jokes comment earlier with the choice of name). Fanny is the Madam of the brothel who cares about ‘her girls.’ Sullivan has a great stage presence and watchable at all times. Even though some of the lines were hammy she got loud laughs and everyone rooting for her and by association, her girls. Talking of getting laughs, Ciara Ennis who played Daisy also succeeded on this front in abundance. The role of Daisy is a supporting role but Ennis gave one of the most memorable performances of the evening.
A huge positive of Animus is the strong ensemble numbers which reminded me of some of Wildhorn’s large numbers. The harmonies these students delivered were rich and delivered powerfully and the Musical Director, Louisa Green must be commended for achieving this with the cast. Some of the most enjoyable moments of the show were when the full cast were on stage singing these numbers. Direction, by Simon Greiff and choreography by Fabian Alosie, was cleverly done in these large numbers. With a large amount of students to move around the stage the drama was enhanced by interesting formations and clever changes in mood and movement.
At times I would have liked to have seen some more challenge movement/dance when appropriate to give the dancers in the company a chance to shine. Animus doesn’t give a large amount of opportunity for this but numbers such as ‘What A Woman’s Worth’ had potential and could have really stood out as big showstopping number.
Despite the many flaws in Animus the cast delivered strong performances and managed to get the maximum from this show. Whilst the show itself isn’t one that I would run back to see again I would happily see many of the cast and students of Trinity Laban in different roles.
If you want to find out more about Trinity Laban visit their website.
If you liked this review you may also like my review of Urinetown (also by Trinity Laban).