Turning Thirty – A melting pot of comedy in many forms
Disastrous relationships spiral out of control at a disastrous 30th birthday. Turning 30 joins Adam (Zac Cohen) as he prepares a birthday meal for his 3 colourful friends and nymphomaniac brother. Centrally, Turning 30 deals with addictions, ranging from Kardashians to Cocaine, yet there is much still relevant for anyone looking in to the abyss of actual adulthood. Adam’s lifestyle has failed to catch up with his age, something which he knows but is fearful to address, and while the guests appear successful at face value, their appearances are broken down to reveal both comic and sensitive personal issues.
The melting pot of comedy and darker issues is reflected with the musical numbers, which range from drug addiction tear jerkers to bizarre Kardashian masked oddities. And while a few big campy west end numbers take some of the style out of what is a sharp and intelligent play, the majority of delicious jazz tunes puts it right back in. The wit and ingenuity expressed in the dialogue and music isn’t wholly present in all of the direction however, which risks becoming one-dimensional at points towards the end of the play.
‘A show with a soft heart and big brain, Turning 30 rises above the deep valley of Millennial angst and Buzzfeed cheese to give us a condensed piece of sharp and heartfelt performance.’
Performances are mostly strong across the board, but especially dominated by the female leads, with Miranda (India Plummer) stealing the show. She shows multiple dimensions of excellent comedy on her entry as well as a seriously emotive performance later in the play, all tied together with a powerful voice. Unfortunately, there’s some singing on the other end of the spectrum and weaker songs are brought down by slow starts, that pick up later on.
As a show with a soft heart and big brain, Turning 30 rises above the deep valley of Millennial angst and Buzzfeed cheese to give us a condensed, sharp and heartfelt performance. All in all, a great, fun start from MT to kick off this year of student musical theatre.
Confessions – An entertaining farce
Confessions is a farce about Stephen-Peter, a lazy priest who unexpectedly ends up in purgatory and has to recount his final days as four archangels have to decide whether he will be sent to heaven or put in hell.
It’s a novel concept that’s executed mostly well, with a sharp, witty script and lyrics from Arnoud Breitbarth, and music from Harry Style which, though not as memorable as the songs from his other short musical Turning 30, will keep you going along nicely with the story.
The actors all do a good job, with Lindsay Fransman bringing good comedic timing and expressiveness to the lead character Stephen-Peter. Also notable is Zac Harvey-Wright as Will, whose comedic sensibility makes for an excellent performance for a character who could easily be hammy in the hands of a less-capable actor.
‘The actors all do a good job, with Lindsay Fransman bringing good comedic timing and expressiveness to the lead character Stephen-Peter. Also notable is Zac Harvey-Wright as Will, whose comedic sensibility makes for an excellent performance’
At its best, Confessions will have you laughing at its clever jokes, but unfortunately some of its jokes fall slightly flat at points. For a musical with a fairly interesting concept, it sometimes feels cheap when the script goes for jokes and comedic tropes we’ve all heard and seen before. The character Lucy for example, though played impressively by Becky Lyle, is essentially a two-dimensional walking joke whose punchline is “This woman is promiscuous!”. Similar jokes cheapen what is otherwise an excellent production.
It almost feels as though the play should be longer; as it is, it feels almost restrained by its slightly repetitive structure (a character comes onstage to confess to Stephen-Peter, and walks off stage as another character comes on stage to confess, rinse and repeat). Character arcs broadly make sense, but some characters (including Stephen-Peter) undergo changes perhaps too quickly, sacrificing character consistency for brevity, but this does come with some quick laughs in return.
Overall, however, Confessions is an enjoyable musical with many more highs than lows and is definitely worth the bargain £9 admission price which also includes the entertaining Turning 30.
‘Turning Thirty’ and ‘Confessions’ last performance is tonight, the 22nd October at Stage @ Leeds. Tickets can be bought on the door, or online here.
(Image courtesy of Music Theatre Society’s Facebook)