Theatreview Review- Pepe Becker
A ‘MUST-C' SHOW: HIGHLY ENTERTAINING, DEEPLY MOVING, HONEST, WITTY, INFORMATIVE, IMAGINATIVE AND VERY, VERY HUMAN
What a warm, human and humorous show this is – humorous in every sense of the word, that is to say, touching on every emotion within and around us, triggered by reflections of on the experience of the disease cancer. I arrive at Circa having been at a meditation afternoon at the Bhuddist monastery, and find myself thinking some of the very words writer/librettist Paul Jenden has penned to open the show (spoken by the thoroughly likeable and down-to-earth Danny Mulheron, as 'Me'/Jenden): "… will it be cheesy, or distasteful… or not distasteful enough?... Cancer sucks, and the last thing you need is…".
But right from the bursting in of the diva-frock-clad marvellous Jackie Clarke (as "The Voice Inside My Head", absolutely in control of her own multi-coloured voice,) with the punchy, rhythmic music of Gareth Farr, I am mesmerised. My attention is held, and my heart is filled (with laughter, then tears, and everything in between), from beginning to end.
The words – sometimes poetic, delivered with much pathos and understanding by Jane Waddell, as ‘Mum' – and music are perfectly partnered, especially during Jackie Clarke's characterful renditions of Gareth Farr's varied and passionate songs. The music sensitively and sonorously reflects the interweaving and juxtaposing of darkly sinister, dream-like moods, involving an imagined journey through a fantasy Venice, enhanced by the soulful, intense Baroque-style dancing of Louis Solino, as ‘Carcinoma', who also interacts movingly and intimately at times with both ‘Mum' and ‘Me'. The lighter, more earthy and realistic numbers are sung by ‘The Voice Inside My Head'.
All the while – in fact right from the first beautifully-phrased opening bars – the expressive and highly-accomplished playing of Sue Alexander, on her rich-toned Steinway piano, takes on the role of an entire band or orchestra to underpin the changing moods with real empathy.
Director Paul Jenden, producer Howard Taylor and their team are to be commended for the simple yet highly effective set design (by John Hodgkins), lighting design (by Ulli Briese) and sound design (by Oceania). A hospital bed, table and chair and a wash-basin – which alludes, in my mind at least, to a font: symbolic of purification or redemption, perhaps facilitating acceptance of that which passes… in life… and in death – are all that adorn the stage. And the costumes, designed by Paul Jenden himself, are wonderfully fitting (metaphorically and materially) for the characters and concepts they are worn by. Every component of the show – the writing, the music, the professionalism of the performers – is well-honed and pitched just right in order to draw us in to the storyteller's world.
At times it feels almost as if we're all family members listening to funny anecdotes about our loved one at a significant birthday party or a wake; a celebration of life that unites people at times of joy and times of loss.
C – A Musical is well-paced, highly entertaining, deeply moving, honest, witty, informative, imaginative and, above all, very, very human. Highlights for me include: fast, witty songs such as the finger-pointy "you know what you should do… if, if, if, if, if I were you" and "mad me… clickety-clack, I've lost my train…" numbers (Jackie Clarke's diction, vocal pacing and stamina are astounding throughout); slower songs such as the "the tide turns…"; the subtle dynamics of the dance; the poignant portrayal of the struggle between 'Captain Chemo' and 'Carcinoma'; the quiet moments, and the injection of humour just when things get a bit sad.
There is more to say, but I recommend you see it for yourself – as Paul Jenden writes, "say si si to C" – and I must add ('scuse the pun) – this is a 'must-C' show! Enjoy…