Review: Rent

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Opening at the Assembly Rooms Theatre last night, Tone Deaf Theatre Company’s production of Rent is a treat for both the ears and the eyes! A well-loved favourite amongst many musical fans, it follows a group of young friends and lovers living in a cold 1980s New York City, who are experiencing first-hand the impact of the AIDs crisis. As a collective group of artists and creatively driven beings, the group navigates the pressures of surviving in such an unwelcoming environment, Rent combines moments of somberness with elements of passion and explosion, making it a compelling watch.

The play opens with flatmates Mark Cohen (Tomos Wyn) and Roger Davis (Bede Capstick) on Christmas Eve. Mark announces his plans to make a film and acts a storyteller, directly addressing the audience. He maintains this role throughout the play which along with being useful to keep track of the story, also allows the audience to develop a relationship with him. Wyn creates an incredibly likeable character and along with fantastic physically, his singing voice is faultless. This theme continues across the entire cast.  The quality of singing voices is outstanding. Each voice is unique and they all blend together seamlessly to create dreamy harmonies. Co-musical Directors and have clearly worked tirelessly with the cast to ensure each note is pitch perfect but also brings the story to life.

Each voice is unique and they all blend together seamlessly to create dreamy harmonies

As a small cast of only 10, all are clearly versatile performers with many multi-rolling. Again, universal to the whole cohort is the ability to create defined characters. Personalities shine through and it is evident that research and many hours have gone into the development of each character. delicately captures a wounded soul. His performance is moving and touching particularly as his relationship with ’s character Mimi develops. brings to life a schedule and rule following Joanne. Afe presents a character with layers who is orderly but kind in spirit, you cannot help but like her! The entire cast presents characters that differ from each other which brings vibrancy and energy to the performance.

Standout elements of the show, are the moments of passion. Expertly directed by and Jacob Vellucci, woven into the emotional script are romantic moments caught between couples. As Tom Collins (Marco Morgan-Castro) and Angel Dumott Schunard (Charlie Moscrop) meet for the first time during the song ‘You Okay Honey?’ sparks begin to fly as Phillips and Vellucci’s direction allow for sweet, tender interactions between the characters. During ‘Light my Candle’, Shaw and Capstick’s characters’ powerful romance also begins to blossom, as the two gravitate towards each other growing the tension. This theme also continues into ‘Take me or Leave me’, as Maureen (Issey Dodd) and Joanne share a moment of anger, that due to smart blocking, is packed with desire. There are times, however, when movements and choreography could’ve received more commitment from the performers. Sometimes movements lack definition which can create a disordered nature on stage.

As a small cast of only 10, all are clearly versatile performers with many multi-rolling

The production team have created an excellent space for the performers to work with. The stage creates a sense of a cruel New York. A raised platform, reached by a staircase on stage left resembles the look of a fire escape outside an apartment building, whilst leaving room for performing below. Props are appropriate and clearly show place. This is evident with the microphone for Maureen that is brought on in time for her performance at the protest, which is expertly completed by Dodd and a highlight of her entire performance, which is incredibly strong. A black backdrop with song titles appearing to be spray painted on completes the scene, along with warm lightbulb fairy lights, which inject the stage with an essential tenderness.

The stage is also home to the wonderful band who guide the musical with their faultless musical talents. Rent is a joy to watch. With clear themes and characters, it is an energetic explosion on stage and a completely captivating performance, beaming with talent. Mixing serious elements with fun ones, this play is not one to miss!

Image credit: Tone Deaf Theatre Company

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