Pros: Gorgeous original music, realistic and lovable characters, a fresh and funny script.
Cons: For some tastes the storyline may be too soapy and the show’s message too sentimental and naïve.
If you attend musicals on the West End, you know it can often be a disappointing experience. You pay a fortune to sit in a cramped seat at a dizzying height, and you peer round a pillar to gaze at the tiny performers down below. If this sounds familiar, head on over to The Cockpit for a more intimate and rewarding theatrical experience.
Another Way is a new musical from Interval Productions about three loosely interrelated couples. Throughout the performance, I was reminded strongly of the film Love Actually. The show is set in London over the Christmas holidays, and features a lovable cast of characters dealing with heartache, new love and friendship.
First there’s Sam and Toby (Aiden Crawford and Bart Edwards); not a romantic couple, they are two friends who’ve created a novelty video about random acts of kindness. Toby, a cad, sees money-making opportunities, but the idealistic Sam believes that money would undermine the integrity of their work. I have to admit, I found myself siding with Toby and wondering how the boys expected to pay their rent. Then there’s Oliver and Carrie, an unexpected pairing. Oliver, an aspiring graphic novelist, is only 22, fresh from childhood, shy and geeky. We can see that he’s gentle, kind and clearly a great guy. Andy Coxon has his characterisation down to a tee. Carrie (the phenomenal Julie Atherton) is a bit older than Oliver and a couple of pegs down on the class ladder. She’s brash and yet vulnerable, as Atherton shows. We watch them meet cute and then their tender romance blossom. And finally there’s Vivien and Alex (Ria Cherrelle Horsford and Matthew Collyer). Alex has cancer and Vivien, his indomitable girlfriend, a Londoner of West Indian descent, is struggling to maintain optimism for the both of them.
Okay, it’s mushy, I admit it. There are plenty of saucy jokes, but they can’t disguise the fact that this play is sentimental at its core. The ‘other way’ that the title refers to is love, an optimistic message that some viewers may find naïve. And yet, I loved it. Another Way won me over with its irresistible charms.
The show succeeds, despite its mawkishness, because of the fresh script and sterling work from the entire cast. Sarah Henley and Tori Allen-Martin’s very funny book captures the natural rhythms of speech. Kudos to the cast as well for their pitch perfect deliveries. Each of the six characters is truthfully drawn and endearing. They feel like your funny, lovable friends, or at least the friends you wish you had.
When reviewing a musical I would be remiss not to mention the music. The original songs by Benedict, whom my programme informs me is an astonishingly young twenty-years old, are a delight. Another Way features gorgeous pop melodies, quite a few of which gave me goose bumps, always a good sign. All the cast have the vocal chops needed to make the musical numbers soar. It was a delight to watch the show in the small space of The Cockpit; sat in the round, the superb and uplifting numbers surrounded me. It’s an experience the West End just can’t match.
If the show’s creators are reading this, I have one suggestion: change the title. Try as I might, I can’t keep the title ‘Another Way’ in my brain. Rodgers and Hammerstein renamed Away We Go! as the much snappier Oklahoma!. I suggest Interval Productions follow suit and find a title memorable enough to match the evening of theatre they’ve created.
Book: Sarah Henley and Tori Allen-Martin
Director: Bo Boland
Box Office: 020 7258 2925
Booking Link: http://thecockpit.org.uk/show/another_way
Booking Until: 5th October 2013