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Fiver, Southwark Playhouse – Review

Have you ever wondered how long a £5 note survives in circulation? Experts suggest the polymer note introduced in 2016 can last up to five years. But who might take ownership of the said note during its lifetime. What impact did it have before it was passed onto the next recipient? All these questions are imagined and explored in Fiver, currently running at the Southwark Playhouse. Most fringe theatres have a studio space secreted in its bowels. The playhouse is no exception, crammed into an airing cupboard under the stairs. The heat is stifling as people are shoe horned…

Summary

Rating

Excellent

A painfully confined sweatbox cannot diminish a genuinely creative new show. This is the kind of musical Lloyd-Webber and Rice would have written had they been born 50 years later.

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Have you ever wondered how long a £5 note survives in circulation? Experts suggest the polymer note introduced in 2016 can last up to five years. But who might take ownership of the said note during its lifetime. What impact did it have before it was passed onto the next recipient? All these questions are imagined and explored in Fiver, currently running at the Southwark Playhouse. Most fringe theatres have a studio space secreted in its bowels. The playhouse is no exception, crammed into an airing cupboard under the stairs. The heat is stifling as people are shoe horned into bench seating. You have to spare a thought for the band, who are wedged between a brick wall and the back scenery of the stage. Nevertheless the band and cast are magnificent in this bright and inventive new musical.

Fiver tells the story of a £5 note that lands in the cap of a street busker played by the show’s co-creator Alex James Ellison. He gives the note to a homeless man who wonders how to spend this outrageous fortune.  With guitar in hand Alex is the story’s narrator as we learn more about the characters whose lives are affected by the elusive note. Luke Bayer, Dan Buckley, Aoife Clesham and Hiba Elchikhe complete the five strong cast. They each take on multiple roles, coping admirably with the rapid scene transitions. The plotting is intricate and thoughtful with truly outstanding songs that fit the narrative like a glove. The unerring quality of songs are reminiscent of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice in their hungry years. Alex James Ellison and Tom Lees have similarly written stand-alone songs that work outside the confines of a musical. For example, Whisper it to me and My day (brilliantly performed by Dan Buckley) are beautifully constructed songs, and could easily appear on the soundtrack of a Hollywood film.

It’s a rarity when a new musical reaches the stage; partly because producers aren’t willing to take the risk and rely instead on a tried and tested formula. But here we have a real gem created by British writers with a refreshingly original narrative. So thank god for the Southwark Playhouse and their like for providing a suitable outlet.  With some minor tweaks and a couple of additional songs, Fiver could be ready for a West End transfer. A certain Lord Lloyd-Webber should perhaps be invited along; I feel he might see something of himself in this ground breaking production?

Writers: Alex James Ellison and Tom Lees
Director/Musical Director: Tom Lees
Producers: Tom Lees, Sam Lees and Alex James Ellison
Box Office: 020 7407 0234
Booking Link: http://southwarkplayhouse.savoysystems.co.uk/
Booking Until: 20 July 2019

About Brian Penn

Brian Penn
Civil Servant. Brian flirted with drama at school but artistic differences forced a painful separation. At least he knows what his motivation is. Now occupying a safe position in the audience he enjoys all kinds of theatre. He was bitten by the theatrical bug after watching a production of Tommy in his teens. Other passions include films, TV and classic rhythm and blues. He also finds time for quizzes, football and squash. A keen sports fan, his enthusiasm crashes to a halt whenever anyone mentions golf. A musical based on the life of Tiger Woods could be his greatest challenge.