Pros: Strong performances by an excellent cast of singers, actors and dancers.
Cons: Not really suited to people unfamiliar with Interval’s previous work, and the running time is simply too long.
‘Best of’ shows are tricky things to pull off. The recipe seems simple enough. Step one: take your most talented performers. Step two: have them sing your catchiest hits. Step three: watch auditorium explode with magnificence. On the other hand, there’s a lot that can go wrong as well. Dangerous adjectives like ‘self-indulgent’ and ‘repetitious’ lurk around every familiar turn. Interval Productions, rather in keeping with their name, delivers a show that’s stuck somewhere on that middle ground between awful and awesome.
Interval So Far is a pick and mix of the four musicals the company has produced: original story Another Way, adaptions After the Turn and Streets, and their own version of the world-famous Rent. As a complete Interval novice, I was unfamiliar with the first three, and herein immediately lies a problem: I didn’t know what was going on. The show starts off with a bunch of young people in hoodies doing a lot of aggressive gesturing, followed by a number of consecutive scenes from After the Turn. I suspect that the latter started somewhere at one third of the original show, because for the first bit I was mostly trying to figure out who everyone was and what they were talking about. The less than precise diction in the first two ensemble songs didn’t improve my understanding either. After a short break we were treated to a lovely rendition of Seasons of Love from Rent, which turned out to be a red herring: the next show in line was actually Another Way.
There were a few seemingly unrelated scenes from this production, which fortunately were quite understandable without prior knowledge. A healthy mixture of drama and laughter made this part feel the most well-rounded and complete. Next followed a selection of songs from Rent, which sadly featured mostly love songs rather than the more interesting songs dealing with the AIDS problem. The final part of the performance was heralded by the return of the hoodies, and again consisted of a few sequential scenes, this time from Streets, which were reasonably easy to follow thanks to an early introduction of some of the characters.
Despite my general state of confusion throughout most of the show, I was genuinely impressed with the quality of the cast. The singing was very solid from start to finish, and there were a few standout performances in the acting department. Steven Webb and Jennifer Potts both made me wish they’d starred in more than one show, their snippets of text teasing you with short displays of their talent. Nathan Hunter-Pope delivered the most touching performance of the show with his heart-breaking rendition of Rent’s I’ll Cover You. And then there were the highly versatile dancers, who managed to be aggressively intimidating and painfully graceful at the same time.
The show also made effective use of the intimate space of The Cockpit’s auditorium. The platforms at the back provided the right height differentiation to create some pretty pictures. They also housed the musicians, a sight that I always very much welcome onstage. The set was simple but adequate. Unfortunately however, the sound quality was rather poor throughout.
All in all there was much to enjoy among Interval’s offerings, but I have no doubt it would be better suited to someone more familiar with their work than I am. Being confronted with two hours and forty-five minutes of mostly unknown material chopped into arbitrary bits and pieces simply doesn’t work, and feels, dare I say it, self-indulgent. But, of course, I’m not the intended audience for a show like this. It’s a celebration of past successes, and who better to share that with than your fans. You wouldn’t invite a complete stranger to your birthday party either.
Authors: Sarah Henley, Tori Allen-Martin
Directors: Sarah Henley, Timothy O’Hara (Streets Director: Bo Boland)
Musical Director: Joe Louis Robinson
Producer: Interval Productions
Choreographer: Kamilah Beckles
Composers: Finn Anderson, Benedict, Tim Prottey-Jones
Booking information: This show has now completed its run.