Little by Little at Etcetera Theatre
Little by Little at The Etcetera Theatre was a delight of an evening!
With music by Brad Ross, Lyrics by Ellen Greenfield and Hal Hackaday and story by Anette Jolles and Ellen Greenfield, Little by Little, a totally sung-through musical takes us through the lives of 3 best friends as they navigate their way through growing up and falling in (and out!) of love.
Russo Rainaldi’s set design in this intimate theatre was very intriguing with 3 rails of clothes and a collection of attic boxes coupled with the Spice Girls playing as I took my seat, we were immediately transported back to the 90’s. The minimalist approach worked perfectly though and the rails and boxes we soon realised, were essential due to the excellent staging choice to have all costume changes take place on stage during the action.
The action begins in childhood, with all 3 actors declaring how bored they are. This was nostalgically familiar and director Matt Strachan did a great job in making sure that this reminiscence continued as we were transported through their teenage years and into young adults, dealing with the pressures of marriage, careers and most important of all, what to do when you are caught in the middle of a rocky relationship between your two best friends, one of whom you are in love with.
Guido Garcia as Man 1 was an absolute bundle of energy. He hit the ground running and put his all into the performance. He really showed the naïve enthusiasm of the character, especially during his rainbow proposal. His interaction with the audience and natural ease, made you warm to him and root for him from the beginning.
Man 1’s teenage love interest is Woman 1 played by Susannah Gidley. Susannah’s voice is beautiful, and I particularly loved watching her turmoil of whether to marry Man 1. Her relationships with the other actors was fantastic but, I did feel that Susannah lacked connection with the audience. In such small space it would have been nice to get some eye contact rather than looking over the top of the audience.
The final corner of the triangle, Woman 2, was my favourite character, as her journey from slightly dorky wallflower to strong career woman is probably the most interesting of the 3 characters. This was expertly played by Charlotte Shaw. Her comedy facial expressions in ‘Just between us’ were a particular highlight as well as the dinner in which she gets progressively drunk on whiskey and sprite. A fab voice too, which along with Susannah’s was shown to perfection during the duet section of ’If you only knew’. However, Charlotte’s strong emotions during ‘I’m Not (reprise)’ did overtake somewhat, meaning that the notes did suffer slightly.
All 3 performers pulled off some excellent close harmonies under the superb musical direction of Samuel Wilson, who I also assume (although not detailed in the programme) also played throughout the entire show. In sung-through musicals there can be a tendency to miss some of the plot but outstanding diction from all 3 performers, ensured that this was not the case at all and we caught every single word and nuance.
My biggest gripe would probably be with the choreography. It started so wonderfully with sharp isolated movements choreographed by Becky Harrison which were just enough but not overshadowing the action, well rehearsed and tight. The samba section was fun and imaginative, but some of the moves did not suit all the performers and verged on awkward at times. Sometimes less is more, especially in such story-based musicals.
Little by Little was such an enjoyable evening, and kudos should go to all three performers and director Matt for taking the initiative and setting up their own production company, Three barks and a Bite, to put this production on. This is exactly what London needs. Get a ticket if you can!
Review by Amy Farlie
Little by Little runs until 30th September. Click here for tickets.