Pros: The enthusiasm and dedication of the performers.
Cons: The plot is unimaginative and the execution flimsy.
In Island Song, creative duo Sam Carner and Derek Gregor explore the lives of five young people living in New York. Caroline (Abby Restall) left Pennsylvania to follow her boyfriend, but their relationship isn’t looking good. Cooper (Jack Anthony Smart) wants to be a professional actor but, after a series of unsuccessful auditions, he’s forced to take a job as a waiter. Jordan (Drou Costantinou) obtains a sought-after promotion and gets entangled in a claustrophobic relationship. Will (Joshua Wills) isn’t too excited about his career as an architect; all he really wants is to move out of the city and have a family with Jordan. Finally, Shoshana (Stephanie Lyse) is a serial dater and compulsive talker, and it’s easy to understand how these two things can easily make her evenings go wrong.
These lives graze one another’s in many ways and occasionally become intertwined. All of them have a unique relationship with the city and all strive to find there what they’re really missing in their lives. New York, or more specifically, the island of Manhattan, has an emotional impact on them and, with the characters being so heavily stereotypical, there are bound to be features that audiences can relate too. Cooper and Jordan are working hard towards self-realization and independence. Will and Caroline need to gain emotional autonomy from their partners, and Shoshana must learn to believe more in herself.
The performance is cute but inconsistent. The cast is young and the guidance of a vocal coach would have cemented many of the insecurities that come to the surface during the musical numbers. Sadly, in this case, enthusiasm alone can’t vouch for quality. The engaging score is brilliantly executed by Michael Dahl Rasmussen at the bass and Isis Dunthorne on percussion, guided at the piano by musical director Ben David Papworth. The lyrics, however, are generally uninspired and supported by weak rhymes, touching on themes that are very obvious or very mundane, as is the case in Looking for a Little Room. The character of Shoshana shines for her humorous take on modern dating dynamics and Lyse’s execution of TMI and Sing, But Don’t Tell are the unquestionable highlights of the evening.
The almost complete absence of choreography affects the flow of the performance, which feels stagnant; the vignettes are barely linked together. The lighting too is discreet and hardly perceptible.
Aiming to present new and original work, The Hidden Theatre Company looked up a creative duo that has won several awards in the United States but, perhaps, overlooked the British taste for sharp writing and elegant routines. This low-budget production benefits from a fresh and committed cast, but shouldn’t have underestimated the contribution of professional figures in charge of the movement and vocal rendition. The outcome is palatable but not memorable.
Author: Sam Carner
Composer: Derek Gregor
Musical Director: Ben David Papworth
Director: Christian Bullen
Producer: The Hidden Theatre Company
Booking Information: This show has now completed its run