Rent at The Churchill Theatre
Rent – The 20th Anniversary Production
Disclaimer from the start – I adore the musical Rent. I love it so much that I even walked out of the church on my wedding day to ‘I’ll Cover You’ (The upbeat version not the reprise!!). Not only have I seen it numerous times but I have also choreographed an amateur version of the show, so I like to think I know it pretty well. I am therefore always anxious when seeing a new production of a show you love in case it doesn’t live up to sky high expectations. Luckily I needn’t have worried with this production of Rent.
Rent is about friendship, acceptance, love and loss. In order for this message to be at the heart of the show you must really not only root for the characters but also root for their relationships. From the off I believed in them all, from Angels (played by Harrison Clark) and Collins (Ryan O’Gorman) unwavering love for each other to Joanne (Shanay Holmes) and Maureen’s (Lucie Jones) tumultuous relationship, fizzing with passion. Whilst all of the characters shone individually in ‘their moment’ the success of this show was in their interaction with each other.
That being said the individual actors do need praise. Lucie Jones as Maureen was brilliant casting. When she states that there will always be women in rubber flirting with her, you don’t doubt the truth in that for a second. I often find ‘Over the Moon,’ an odd section of the show, wishing it to be over almost as soon as it has began but Lucie’s version was engaging, humorous and showed off her vocals wonderfully. Ryan O’Gorman who played Collins did so with a huge amount of sensitivity and a smooth baritone voice to boot. His reprise of ‘I’ll Cover You’ was one of the highlights of the show for me, well the bits I saw through the tears at least.
Whilst all of the principal cast deserve the plaudits that they have been getting, the supporting ensemble deserve a huge amount of appreciation. They appear consistently throughout the show playing numerous roles from parents, to soloists in Seasons of Love and from junkies to characters in the life support meeting. Each of them brought something very unique to the show and each character enhancing each moment.
One thing I found particularly strong about this version was the choreography. In a pre-show talk the director Bruce Guthrie explained that Lee Proud, the choreographer, had set out for the dance to retain an anarchistic element. This element really shone through, not only was La Vie Boheme a visual feast but throughout the show dance elements complimented the action perfectly.
The high rise scaffolding set continued this anarchistic theme and complimented the direction and choreography well. It allowed the cast to clamber out of corners and scale ladders. It was also used cleverly by Guthrie to allow the action to flow easily from one moment to the next, ensuring the audiences attention does not waver and the energy not drop.
Whilst HIV is less prevalent and education on this subject more readily available and acceptance on Homosexuality relationships has improved since Larsson’s original production it shows that the underlying themes are as important as ever. That combined with Larsson’s powerful score, Guthrie’s eye for detail and the casts immense talent makes for an unmissable show.