Thursday, 16 February 2017

Rent

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh
Four stars

On the streets of New York, there's a riot going on, everybody's hustling to make ends meet and the cops are beating up anyone who's different. The property magnates are intent on turfing out the arty types who give the 'hood it's character, and the kids are clinging to each other for comfort in order to survive. Sound familiar?

Jonathan Larson's La Boheme inspired pop musical set among a diverse group of twenty-somethings finding out who they are looked like an elegy for a pre-millennial generation who had come of age with the spectre of AIDS when it premiered in 1996. Twenty years on, if it wasn't for the lack of mobile phones, Bruce Guthrie's touring anniversary production could be set last week in any inner city melting pot in the throes of hipster-friendly gentrification.

In a loft shared by Billy Cullum's wannabe Warhol Mark and Ross Hunter's would-be rock star Roger, the pair become the centre of a community populated by addicts, performance artists and drag queen Angel. The latter is played with tenderness by Harrison Clark, stepping in for an injured Layton Williams. Out of this comes a slack-tastic coming of age soap opera that features identity politics to the max in a way now commonplace on teen TV.

The elaborate urban steel set all this is played out on allows full vent for Lee Proud's choreography, as the large ensemble cast sing and dance their way through their characters' pains. While only Seasons of Love truly stands out musically, like those onstage, each song is emotionally linked in a way that both depends on and supports each other in a show where unity counts most of all.

The Herald, February 17th 2017

ends

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