Gala Theatre Durham
29th July 2017
My son (the former Reluctant Teenager) reminded me that when he first told me that he wanted to see a performance of this musical, and asked if I had heard of it, I (allegedly) said, "isn't that the rude one?" So you might think it something of a bold move by GTSS Director Kate Sorahan to choose this
as the summer show. It is not just a show with pretty adult themes - AIDS, prostitution, sexuality, anarchy, - it is also a pretty demanding show musically. The programme lists 25 musical numbers in the first act alone. With a cast ranging in age from just 14 to 20 years would the Gala Stage School have the skill and stamina to do it justice? This is the School Edition, so some of the language has been modified, and a verse or two omitted from one of the songs, but other than that it does not differ from the full version.
Set in the Bohemian artist's community in New York at the end of the twentieth century, RENT follows a year in the lives of a group of friends. Recorded by Mark (Luke Henderson), for his documentary film, they struggle to find money to live, find ways to cope with the knowledge that they are HIV positive or worse, and that they will almost certainly not have a long life. They live day to day on the margins of society, with the knowledge that life is not permanent. So they live for the day taking what comfort they can, wherever they can, however they can, fighting for what they believe, for their way of life and for those who are marginalised by the authorities and whose voices are not heard. It sounds bleak, and at times it is, but it is also joyous and life affirming, as they each find a way to follow their dream.
So, can such a young cast deliver? You bet your sweet ass they can!
From the first note we are swept up into the world of Rent. We watch as they fall in and out of love, struggling to cope with friendships, lovers, ex-lovers, parents. It is an emotional, exhilarating, heart-breaking rollercoaster of a musical and the audience feels every joy and every pain along the way.
For such a young cast they give astounding performances. There is not a single actor or actress who doesn't shine on stage, but special mention has to be made of Stephen Robson, his performance is absolutely brilliant as the cross-dressing Angel. He has dance moves to die for and I swear there is not a dry eye in the house in Act Two.
Georgia Lennon is excellent in the role of Mimi, and Amy George as Maureen, gives a fantastic and funny performance of the avant-garde Over the Moon (based on the nursery rhyme the Cat and the Fiddle). It feels unfair to single out any performer but these are my three favourites from an extremely talented cast.
If you can still get one, buy a ticket for this - it is worth every penny and more. You see will a fabulous show performed most surely by some of the future stars of the West End.
Rent runs until 5th August. Tickets are £14.50 and are available (but be quick!) from the Gala Box Office.