Presenting an overview of life in capitalist America, Working presents an insight into the lives of working-class individuals and considers their relationship with their occupations and wider life through a series of vignettes, usually through monologue or song. Here, the deep thoughts and personalities of characters often stereotyped in society are explored in a meaningful and entertaining way.
The production was a fairly simplistic one, in many ways in line with the theme of the musical; looking more deeply at what may be perceived as ‘simple’, or ordinary lives. This was reflected in the set design; a silhouetted city skyline with scattered lit windows, reminding the audience that each light is a gateway to a different and complex individual.
The unusual style of vignettes certainly posed its challenges, resulting in the second act outperforming the first from an acting perspective, as both the cast and the audience became more comfortable with the medium. Inevitably, with the range of styles and characters, there was some variety in the quality of the songs, with a few outstanding numbers, and one or two leaving something to be desired. This said, I was impressed with the versatility of the actors in their ability to adapt from young teenagers at their first job to stay-at-home mothers, factory workers, businessmen, and the elderly.
Musicals are always a difficult beast to conquer, relying on a triad of singing, dancing, and acting all coming together. ‘Working’ succeeds well in each of these aspects, however I would argue that only one or two numbers display excellence in all three aspects at once, in some of the more musically impressive acts, the dancing and performance feels limited, and vice versa for those that focused on dance. This said, each number displayed good qualities.
Charlie Procter’s presentation of a teenager at his first job in fast food is the one of the strongest all-round numbers, along with the moving rendition of ‘A Very Good Day’, portraying a nurse and a nanny looking after others while feeling they were abandoning their own families. Eve Battersby’s authentic and charismatic performance of ‘It’s an Art’, was particularly enjoyable. The dance and performance aspects shine in all these numbers, while maintaining strong musical delivery.
As aforementioned, the acting was an aspect of the production that improved as it went on. The later vignettes really come into their own, and felt like individuals sharing their stories with us, in contrast to some of the earlier performances which occasionally feel a little over-acted. However, this can be forgiven as we spent very little time with any of the characters, and despite this the audience went from laughing to poignant reflection in as little as 3 minutes.
There were definitely one or two improvements to be made, such as the wavering American accents, and fluidity of some of the dancing, and the time it takes to become comfortable with the format. However, particularly considering last minute cast changes, these can be ironed out as the production runs its course.
The band must be commended on their excellent performance; I regularly forgot I was listening to a live band as they listened well to the actors and blended in well due to this; a great job on Aidan Hughes’ part.
This production of Working is in general very effective and enjoyable, with a few performances displaying excellence. The performance provides a modern take on the concept of the American dream and is a meaningful experience sparking a range of emotions from the audience.
TCMS’s Working plays at 7:30pm at Trevelyan College, 22-24th June.