“Wholesome and simply joyous, ‘RENT’ is a must-watch for its showcase of the immense dedication and hard work of everyone involved”

In the words of Roger Davis, ‘zoom in on my wallet’ as I come back for a second viewing of TDTC’s production of the Musical ‘RENT’, a truly wonderful and captivating depiction of the value of love and life. The Directors’ (Emily Phillips and Jacob Vellucci) thoughtful vision of the show speaks passionately, particularly to youths who feel like misfits, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and self-proclaimed musical theatre nerds, by carefully telling the story of a group of impoverished young artists struggling to survive and create a life for themselves. 

First and foremost, the audience is thrown immediately into 1990s New York, conveyed by appropriate costume choices ranging from neon colours and grunge, to the classic double-denim; as well as the brilliantly utilised platformed set which stood predominantly as Mark and Roger’s apartment. There was only a minor problem with the set due to a slight prop mishap as a chair tipped over during the opening choreography, but was efficiently resolved by those onstage; as well as causing slight wobbles when climbing from chair to table. Despite this, the stage management team (led by Aaron Lo) must be commended for its smooth transitions and sufficient use of props that never overwhelm the stage or the audience, especially in instances of full-cast moments.

Furthermore, the set was used successfully in terms of spacing and blocking and credit must go to Amy Shelmerdine’s choreography for its energetic and carefully thought-out nature. The sublime full-cast harmonies encouraged the audience to become fully immersed within the musical, and demonstrated the closeness of the cast members and their ability to work together so well. The musical directors (Josh Man and Freya Hartley) have done a fantastic job in intensifying the impact of the emotional and dramatic scenes, especially through the talented live band: Josh Brooks (guitar), Adam Critchlow (drum) Joe Chesters (bass), who beautifully worked their magic and were faultless throughout.

In terms of the tech crew, their efforts deserve astounding credit, with a notable highlight being the portrayal of Angel’s struggle with AID’s: the erratic and spasmodic sounds and lighting was legitimately shocking and heart-wrenching to watch. This was a true turning point in the show that was illustrated appropriately and hauntingly by the exuberant and sassy Charlie Moscrop. 

With further regard to the cast, Vivienne Shaw as Mimi is nothing but marvellous in her role, she is an absolute powerhouse in terms of vocal ability which in turn makes her moments with Roger (Bede Capstick) all the more touching. The almost Ben Platt-like quirks of Capstick exemplify this troubled, yet beautiful, dynamic between the two characters. The vibrant performance ‘Tango: Maureen’, proved to be a crowd-favourite due to the light-hearted and playfulness provided by Tomos wyn as Mark with the hilarity of Oyinkan Afe’s facial expressions which tell a story of their own. The diva with a revolutionary spirit, Issey Dodd, had the crowd cackling with her eccentric performance of ‘Over the moon’ as she cleverly encapsulates Maureen’s confident, flirtatious, and self-centered character with top-notch balance.

Overall, the camaraderie on stage and behind the scenes of this production feels as close as Mark does to his camcorder. Wholesome and simply joyous, ‘RENT’ is a must-watch for its showcase of the immense dedication and hard work of everyone involved. As if the show wasn’t heartfelt enough, a portion of every ticket sold will go to Blue Sky Trust supporting people in the North-East with HIV/AIDs.

By Hollie Akers

RENT is performing at the Assembly Rooms theatre until the 25th February

Photo Credits: TDTC