Pros: Fun and relatable with great live music.
Cons: A play with big aspirations, the script and plot could use some fine tuning and the action was a bit cramped and confused on such a small stage.
Life in your 20s is not easy. Figuring out who you are and what you want is hard. Finding and maintaining any type of relationship is hard. Finding and maintaining work is hard.
This is the essence of Stephen Lloyds new play with music, Unsigned, which follows five young band mates on the ups and downs of ‘making it’.
Unsung Heroes, the fictional band, is composed of five distinct personalities: Sean (Jerome Ngondai), the hungry-for-success one that raps, Rob (Alex Piggins), the love-sick actor one that plays the guitar; Tom (Reuben Beau Davies), the hates-the-world one that plays the bass; Clifford (Kieran Bailey), the offensive, cheap one that plays the drums; and Ash (Oscar Porter Brentford), the eccentric one that sings.
Each are navigating their own world of dreams, desires, money issues, careers, relationships and envy of ‘frenemies’, as they strive to get their band signed when they are entered into a competition that will put them in front of an audience of thousands.
Action on stage is contrasted with screen footage and live performances by ‘the band’ and much of the action seems to take place over the phone in scenes that would lend themselves better to the screen. Nevertheless, the addition of filmed footage was a clever extra layer giving the piece more depth whilst decluttering what was an often awkwardly over-crowded stage.
The characters and their separate plights were well written by playwright Stephen Lloyd and well defined by a cast who created a lovable motley crew whose lives were easy to invest in for an hour and a half and enjoyable to watch.
It’s an engaging, enjoyable and funny story full of relatable themes and sentiment but does occasionally cross to the wrong side of overtly sentimental. Too many ideas and sub-plots, such as Rob’s on-again, off-again relationship with fellow wannabe actor Sophie, need to be better integrated into the main plot. Additionally, some obstacles on the way to stardom are too easily sorted in a way that is a bit too simplistic making the action and characters, at times, not dramatic enough for the stage.
Having said that, Unsigned was really fun watch and with a little editing, more resource and a bigger stage, could be a fantastic theatre piece too.