Jiahe Max Luan

Ordinary Days review: “an absolute delight”

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Ordinary Days marks the first of DULOG’s forays into the world of small-cast musicals. As I entered the unusually small-scale (by DULOG standards) venue of the music room concert hall, I was unsure what to expect. Any worries I had were shattered by the end of the first number and I have to say that Ordinary Days was an absolute delight to watch.

Adam Gwon’s Ordinary Days takes place in New York in the mid-noughties, and follows the ordinary lives of four characters, exploring how their days intertwine in a ‘butterfly-effect’ narrative. The cast worked as a wonderful ensemble, complimenting each other both in their physical performances and their vocals. We first meet Warren (Alex Mackinder) handing out flyers to the audience during the song ‘One by One by One’, and this instantly established a very high standard for the rest of the show. Mackinder’s excellent vocals and energetic characterisation of the annoyingly optimistic Warren were, for me, the stand-out performance of the night. After taking some time to warm into the character, Meriel Killeen’s portrayal of the cynical and sassy Deb was also superb, sending the audience into fits of laughter at the oh-so-relatable ‘Dear Professor Thompson’ numbers and wowing them with her excellent display of vocal talent in ‘Calm’. Mackinder and Killeen were a treat to watch together and I found myself completely engrossed in their chemistry. ‘The Rooftop Duet’ between the two was my favourite number of the show, and I got some crazy goosebumps!

Following a different story arc are the lives of Jason (Mitch Kroener) and Claire (Izzy Horler), a dysfunctional couple fighting to stay together despite the stress of their relationship. Despite falling slightly flat in some earlier numbers, Kroener displayed great vocal prowess as Jason, yet I wish his character had more energy and emotion to it, and he unfortunately failed to bring out the more tender moments. On the whole, though, Kroener’s performance was very good nonetheless. Horler delivered a marvellous performance as Claire, culminating in the emotional rollercoaster of ‘I’ll Be Here’. She had the audience into floods of tears, and it was certainly a highlight of the show. I felt that Horler’s performance was somewhat marred by first-night nerves, as evidenced by some unfortunate mumbling of a forgotten line during one of the numbers, though she recovered very well and her beautiful soprano voice was flawless throughout. Horler and Kroener, while still a great duet, never quite showed the same chemistry as their cast-mates, and they were slightly overshadowed in this respect.

Immense praise must go to Sophie Forster for taking on such a raw and intimate show as her first directing role. Forster created a fantastic spectacle despite the challenging space and I hope to see her direct again. There were a few instances in which the blocking lead to actors bumping into one another, slightly jarring the action, though this is perhaps due to a short rehearsal time in the venue. Also in deserve of praise is musical director John Reddel (alongside Assistant Musical Director Becky Brookes), who also accompanied the entire 75-minute-long show with a notoriously challenging piano part. As Ordinary Days is entirely sung-through, it is great to see that both Forster and Reddel have worked together to bring out the emotional subtleties of the lyrics and create intricate characters that the audience believes and relates to.

Seeing the set for the first time was worrying for me- a collection of brightly-coloured blocks evoking childhood memories of Lego filled the stage, and I was concerned that the size of the set would constrict the action. However, it was pulled off to great effect (courtesy of producers Genevieve Burns and Tom Mack), and contrasted very nicely with the naturalistic core of the show, while still giving the performers space to breath. Jaisal Patel’s tech was flawless, despite a few minor issues with feedback. His minimalistic lighting was used to great effect and did not distract from the action, and it was refreshing to see a musical with a good balance between the singing and accompaniment.

All-in-all, DULOG has done a magnificent job with Ordinary Days. Despite the challenges associated with a small cast and a small performance space, the production team and cast are in deserve of mountains of praise for having pulled it off, leaving the audience beaming from ear to ear. I would definitely recommend heading down to the concert hall if you have a spare evening this week; I loved it, and I have no doubt that the show will only continue to improve.

Photograph: Tom Mack

‘Ordinary Days’ will run until Sat 5th Mar at the Music Department Concert Room. Book your tickets here.

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