Thursday, 29 October 2015

The Choir

Citizens Theatre, Glasgow
Four stars

It's fitting that Paul Higgins and Ricky Ross' new musical play is set in the shabby, wood-panelled walls of a Wishaw community hall. For among the chairs that sit as mismatched as the people who form the choir founded by Iraqi doctor, Khalid, there are few contemporary plays that nail their colours to a grassroots mast quite as much as this.

As single mums, ex cons and zero hours contract workers are thrown together with Tory councillors and other posh locals, each with a theme tune they share with the group, a cross-class, cross-gender, pan-generational supergroup finds unexpected harmony through singing together. There is romance, between Ryan Fletcher's twenty-something Donny and Nesha Caplan's unemployed Velia, sexual tension between Jess Murphy's suburban wife Charlotte and Peter Polycarpou's Khalid, and a melting pot of life between. In the end, however, it is tracksuit-clad Scott's political rap that divides the group.

As the first fruits of a partnership between the Citz and commercial producers Ambassadors Theatre Group, Dominic Hill's production navigates his cast towards a feelgood ending care of David Higham's rousing musical arrangements.

While some of the political drive raised by the rehearsal room fall-outs are so direct as to sound heavy handed, and while some of the characters remain little more than sketches, all this is off-set by an ingrained understanding of the potency of cheap music, while the play's structure is steeped in ceremony and ritual from the off. And if the melody to the play's finale bears a nagging resemblance to Johnny Mandel's theme for Robert Altman's film, M*A*S*H*, it's transformed into something similarly powerful in this dramatic hymn to the power of song.

The Herald, October 29th 2015

ends

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