Last week I had the pleasure of being invited to the Press Evening for “After The Turn”, a new British Musical with music by Tim Prottey Jones. Most of you know how much I enjoy Tim’s music so to say I was excited about seeing this show is a small understatement!
The plot line of the story is twisty and unusual. Michael (Liam Doyle) is a talented young musician on the brink of making it big with his band when his single mother Amanda (Ashleigh Gray) is killed in an accident, leaving him in the care of his uncle (Steven Webb). Michael shuts down and doesn’t speak at all for a number of years. Not knowing what to do next, his uncle calls Michael’s ex-girlfriend Lauren (Tori Allen-Martin) to attempt to make him speak again. Lauren’s new boyfriend is Michael’s former bandmate, Wolf (Greg Oliver). He wants to get involved but only if he can sign Michael to his record label in time to make a fortune. In the background, a version of Michael from before the accident (Stephen Rolley) sings the thoughts that Michael is unable to verbalise. Still with me?
It was definitely nice to see a show in which the plot is gritty, psychological and tugs at the heartstrings without being soppy. At times the show was shocking and at other times it almost moved me to tears – all in all it was an excellent mix of emotions. Other reviewers have compared this show to musicals such as Rent and Spring Awakening and I am inclined to agree – this kind of gritty musical doesn’t come around much, but when it does it’s generally something a little special.
Liam Doyle as Michael was, I thought, fantastic. It must be such a challenge for an actor to act with nothing but ones body for most of a show, even when all those around you have their voices to work with. Such was the intensity of his silence that once he actually spoke/sang it was joyful to behold. Similarly, Stephen Rolley as the younger, happier version of Michael almost made me upset. Purely because it was so easy to believe that the older, angrier, silent Michael used to be this happy, talented individual with so much ahead of him.
Tori Allen-Martin as Lauren is a joy to watch and listen to and I loved the way the character changes throughout the show. She brought what was almost an unintentional humour to parts of the show and her vocals were a pleasure to listen to. Greg Oliver as her partner Wolf is at first mildly irritating because of the arrogance of the character, but he becomes utterly terrifying in the second half with how his character becomes so explosive. An excellent performance from Greg, whose vocals particularly in “Down Flew The Doves” were stunning.
Steven Webb as Michael’s uncle (and now guardian) Will brings the much needed bit of light comedy relief to the show but ultimately his character is in a very difficult position. I felt the challenges the character experiences were perfectly acted to Steven, who is always a pleasure to watch on stage. Ashleigh Gray as Michael’s mother was almost heartbreaking at times. Every time I pulled myself together during this show, there was Ashleigh with heartbreakers like “I Will Be There”. Her role was, I thought, the most vocally demanding in the show and she tackles this with what looks like great ease.
Every member of the cast was exceptionally strong and this, paired with Tim Prottey Jones’ excellent music made the show new, raw and enjoyable. I only had a couple of teeny criticisms of this show – the first one being that I didn’t feel that the plot twist towards the end made a great deal of sense. This is purely because of how it was set up in the first half. A change of wording in the first half and it would be a little more understandable. My second little thing was that I felt the show was a little long. The first half had the perfect amount of pace and length, but the second half seemed to be a lot longer and slower. These are only small criticisms however of what I thought was an excellent show.
If this kind of musical is part of the future of musical theatre, then I look forward to it!
After The Turn runs at the Courtyard Theatre until February 25th.