REVIEW – Rent at the Cockpit Theatre

Friday night I had the pleasure of attending the press night of Interval Productions’ “Rent” at the Cockpit Theatre. Like most Rent fans, I’m always sceptical when companies put on Rent – I think the scepticism comes from the disaster that was Rent Remixed (shudder). Rent is such a well known and loved show within the theatre community that it is incredibly difficult to get it right. I’m pleased to say this production left me happy that Rent is still around.

The Cockpit (although a bit out of the way) gives the perfect space for a show that always leaves the audience devastated. So many people are quick to dismiss Rent as “that show about AIDS”, but the show is so much more than that. Rent is about family, friendship, relationships and life and it takes a truly special cast to put that across to an audience.

Will Bradnam was a great Mark. I always find it odd that Mark, as such a nondescript character, becomes the narrator and almost a lynchpin for the entire show. Without Mark, half the time the audience would have no idea what was going on. Bradnam carried the role perfectly.

John Mcrea and Carlton Connell as Angel and Collins respectively were perfection. As two of the more integral characters in the show, I often find it difficult to find actors who can portray this very complex relationship with ease and style. These two hit the nail right on the head – I cried like a baby during THAT scene (you know the one) in the second half, and I think most of that sadness was prompted by the loss of such a beautiful relationship.

Tori Allen-Martin’s Mimi was a joy to behold, and at times a little different to how Mimi is normally portrayed – which I liked. Her and Christian Jones made a lovely vocal duo, but I did find at times that Jones’ acting was a touch too intense. Ben Astle played landlord and former roommate Benny well, with just the right amount of sleaze from the start.

I love love LOVED Sabrina Aloueche as Maureen. It’s often great to see an actor do something different with a role and Aloueche’s Maureen was about as different as they get! I laughed a lot during Over The Moon And even found myself giggling during Take Me Or Leave Me. A perfect vocal match for miss Aloueche was the fantastic Ambra Caserotti as Joanne. One thing I did find with this particular pairing, though, was that sometimes I didn’t believe they were in a relationship – just my opinion but I think Maureen and Joanne’s relationship should be pretty intense and for some reason I didn’t feel it here. Maybe it will come with time?

The lead cast were backed up by a faultless ensemble, who all played their multitude of roles with flair and great vocal prowess. I LOVED seeing Rent taken back to how it was created originally, and noticed that some of the choreography was the same or very similar to the choreography seen in the Broadway Production that was so loved.

One problem I did think could do with some re-thinking was the sound. It just wasn’t loud enough. I think Rent is meant to a be a loud show – and without the volume it did lose a bit of its kick. Hopefully this can be solved.

All in all a great production, that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to Rent fans and newcomers alike. Rent is such a gorgeous, gritty show and it’s great to see a company do it justice. In my opinion, if you don’t come out of Rent exhausted and yet uplifted the show hasn’t been done properly, but this production made me feel everything Rent should and more.

As an aside, I do wonder how the show would have changed had Jonathan Larson not sadly passed away? There’s a great story about Rent from when it was first on Broadway. Jonathan Larson (the writer of the show) passed away very suddenly the day before opening night. His parents gave their blessing to open the show anyhow, and the cast decided that what they would do was sing through the show whilst seated on stage, as a tribute to Jonathan. By the time they got to “La Vie Boheme”, they could not sit any longer. From that point they performed the show as it was meant to be staged – of course minus costumes. Following the show there was a long period of applause, followed by silence, which was only broken when an audience member shouted out “Thank you Jonathan Larson”. I think that says it all.

Get your tickets now – because this production is not to be missed!

Rent at The Cockpit Theatre

Performance Dates and Times: 17th – 21st October, 24th – 28th October, 30th October – 3rd November, 6th – 10th November – 7:30pm

Twitter: @nodaybut2dayuk