By Nicki Orrell
Get Your Sh*t Together: A New Musical is a breath of fresh air in what has been a season of some pretty heavy theatre. Playful, modern and often hilarious, it is the perfect remedy to summative season blues. Moreover, with a running time of only an hour long, there is no excuse not to make time for it!
The show follows the story of Alex (Joe McWilliam) a guy who has been recently fired due to a staple gun incident (no one knows why the finance department has a staple gun); has been forced to move to what can only be described as the grottiest apartment in the world; and whose girlfriend has recently left him for a slimy breakfast TV host. His sisters, Anabelle (Maddie Graham) and Lana (Jazzy Price) – the human embodiments of sunshine and rain, respectively – take it upon themselves to turn his frown upside down.
If this show was reduced to one word, it would be ‘funny’. The entire piece is amusing but skilful performances, impeccable comic timing and astute directorial decisions mean that some moments are downright hysterical. Whilst all the performers should be acknowledged for their comedic skills, there were certain moments and performances that deserve a mention. First and foremost, Edward Hislop’s Ernest made me almost weep with laughter multiple times. Even a quirk of his eyebrow could send the audience into hysterics and his little interjections were some of the most humorous moments in the piece. Millie Davies and Louise Webster also gave an amusing performance as Josephine and Celestine in the rest of the band, though on occasion they must watch for clarity as some probably very funny lines were lost. Secondly, the unbearably awkward flirting between McWilliam and Lily Ratnavel (playing Marguerite), which used pizza to create some of the strangest sexual tension I’ve ever seen, couldn’t help but elicit a giggle. But finally, Ratnavel’s rendition of the song ‘Casting Back’ was performed in such a way that you were instantly reminded of every awkward moment you’ve ever had in your entire life, which meant a well-deserved chuckle ran throughout.
Director Isabelle Culkin must be congratulated for knowing exactly how to approach this piece. The show’s humour depends on the characters being caricatures of millennials, and there are cheesy jokes aplenty; this leaves one in a precarious position between holding back and losing laughs when trying to give the piece depth and taking it too far into pantomime territory. Culkin embraces the silliness of the piece with gusto, but knows exactly when to reign in any exaggeration that could take the show into farce.
All of the performers were excellent, and some startlingly strong voices revealed themselves. Maddie Graham, playing Annabelle, proved an absolute powerhouse, both her belt and her higher notes seemed effortless. McWilliam, playing Alex, was also a stand out in this regard, displaying a nice maturity and gravel in his lower range. The highlight for me though was ‘Caj and Cool’, a duet between George Rextrew and Jazzy Price, that was simultaneously amusing and also something I desperately wanted to secretly record and put straight on my iPod. Whilst Price occasionally struggled to support some of her higher notes, this duet and the song ‘Breakfast Isn’t The Only Meal’ proved that she has a truly enchanting chest voice. The band also deserves another mention, as their tight vocal harmonies and adept playing really enhanced the show (it should also not be underestimated how difficult it is to act, sing and play an instrument simultaneously!) Musical Director, Becca Rickwood, should be immensely proud of what she has achieved here.
The few problems I had with this piece mostly stemmed from the book and score, something the production team could not have remedied. For the most part, these were well crafted and humorous, but some of the songs lacked structure – just stopping short of becoming the catchy sing-alongs they could have been. Furthermore, occasionally the book strayed too far from naturalism, leaving characterisation sacrificed for an attempt to garner another laugh. These issues only occurred on occasion, and overall this was a great piece of writing. One other minor issue would be that occasionally the blocking came across slightly awkwardly; particularly in some of the scenes that took place on the main stage. Although this could have potentially been remedied by moving the flats and the sofa to create slightly more space, it was a minor point that did not hinder my enjoyment of the production.
I cannot recommend this piece highly enough. You will not discover the meaning of life from watching it – nor will you leave pondering the futility of existence – but, my god, you will have a good time. If you want a glimpse into your early twenties, if you want to laugh at a sixteen-year-old stressing about GCSES while you wonder if you’ll even pass your degree, or even if you just want to have a stress-relieving giggle, then this show is for you. So no matter what, get yourself down to The Assembly Rooms Theatre this weekend.
‘Get Your Sh*t Together’ will be performed in the Assembly Rooms Theatre from Thursday the 8th of December, to Saturday the 10th of December at 19.30. Book your tickets here.
Photograph: Laurence Holmes-Smith