Michael Nower is amused by DULOG’s brave new charitable endeavour.
I will start off by saying that, given the twenty-four-hour preparation period, the show was a great success; some stunning vocals and catchy tunes more than compensated for the few weaker elements. Running at just over thirty-five minutes, the show was quite short, and consisted of a series of loosely connected songs, based around the overarching theme of ‘Pursuit’, rather than a cohesive plotline. At times, this made it difficult to keep up, as the performances leapt from song to song and style to style, which was definitely not what I was expecting when I stepped foot into the Assembly Rooms Theatre. However, for a twenty-four-hour musical, this format worked well, and the audience seemed to have a great time, as, overall, did I. Without prior knowledge of the format, you would not have been able to tell that the whole show was written, composed and rehearsed in only twenty-four hours, given the quality of the songs and performances. Even when there was the occasional line slip up or timing issue, the performers did a superb job of turning them into moments of humour, which the audience seemed to really enjoy.
The opening and closing numbers of the show, composed by Ollie Kirkwood, were large ensemble pieces, with all the cast members. There seemed to be initial nervousness among the cast, however, this soon faded, and by the final number all of the cast were giving slick performances, with some beautiful harmonies. The second song of the show, composed by Danny Booth, and performed by Ella Weston and Annabel Dickson, was performed well, although I felt it would have worked better later in the running order, as felt like a very full on introduction to the evening. The third song, composed by Rowan Evans, with lyrics by Dan Kinch, was my favourite of the earlier songs. The song was based around a love triangle between Jake, played by Hal Lockwood, and Madeline and Phoebe, played by Celia Brown and Emily Hardy respectively. The contrast between the two parts of the triangle as they swapped backwards and forwards was done superbly, and was one of the funniest moments of the evening. Vocally, all three roles were well performed, and the harmonies towards the end of the song were excellent. With the fourth song, composed by Samuel Reed, with lyrics by Marie Louise, the individual performances of Polly Beaumont and Rob Singleton were excellent, but the harmonies were much flatter, and for me the song did not seem as polished as many of the other performances. The fifth song, composed by Ollie Kirkwood, with lyrics by Sam Baumal, covered the ever-relevant topic of dating apps, and gave us two of the most endearing performances of the evening, from Dan Thomas and Tara Munnely, as the more inexperienced users of the app, contrasting wonderfully with the characters played by Kane Taylor and Mathilde Francois as the more experienced users.
As the evening progressed, the quality of the songs and performances remained high; however, the standout songs and performances of the evening were, for me, the sixth song, composed by Sophie Brown, with lyrics by Florence Russell, and the seventh song, composed by Rosie Weston. The sixth song was the most hilarious of the evening, which can be equally attributed to great writing and some superb performances by Stacey Cockram and Isla Brendon. Finally, the seventh song, performed by Rachelle Ojomo, was for me the musical and vocal highlight of the evening, giving us a sample of DULOG singing at its very best, switching seamlessly between different styles of music within the single performance.
The technical side of the show, led by Technical Director Josh Gordon, was very well executed, especially given the significant time constraints faced by the technical team. The lighting for the production, designed by Caleb Bond, was simple but effective, particularly during the third number, where contrasting colours were used to differentiate the two sides of the love triangle. Sound wise, there were initial balancing issues, where the band drowned out the singers, but this was swiftly corrected, and by the end of the show the balance was spot on.
Previous twenty-four and forty-eight hour musicals in Durham, have often attempted to fit too much into the shows, and the quality has suffered as a result. With DULOG’s version, almost the opposite was true: the quality was, as expected, very high, but I was left wanting a longer production, with more development of the individual storylines, and more of the excellent songs. If DULOG does put on another production of this kind again, which I certainly hope they will, given the quality of tonight’s performance, I would personally recommend moving to a forty-eight-hour musical. Despite this, I had a great time, and the format is definitely something that I would like to see DULOG tackling again in the future. Furthermore, with the profits from the show being donated to MIND, the mental health charity, the audience knew that they were supporting an important cause while they were enjoying themselves.