Writer & Music: Lucy Rivers
Director: Titas Balder
Reviewer: Jacqui Onions
Sinners Club is a dark, surreal and edgy exploration of the life of Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be executed in Britain. This theatre gig is a real onslaught on the senses – and most of it in a good way.
The powerful and emotive original music by Lucy Rivers brings to life Ellis’ story with a mixture of influences including jazz, folk, rock and country. The music really is the star of this production and the quality of writing is equalled by the quality of musicianship. The band, The Bad Mothers, are made up of Rivers herself on vocals (with some violin and keyboard playing thrown in), Dan Messore on guitar, bass player Aiden Thorne and Tom Cottle on drums. Not only the band, they are the entire cast. Rivers fronts the piece and combines spoken word with her descriptive lyrics to paint a well-rounded picture of Ellis – the victim and the perpetrator, regular woman and criminal. Her performance is captivating and if the show was left at that, a straight forward theatre gig telling Ellis’ story, then it would be outstanding. If the soundtrack to this show were to be released as an album, it would be a joy to listen to over and over again, letting the songs conjure the story in your mind.
However, incorporated into Sinners Club is the sub-plot of the band inviting the audience into the studio as they record their latest album. There is a parallel story running between that being told of Ellis and her lover, David, and also the singer and the sound engineer, also called David, who is only a disembodied voice to the audience. This mirroring of Ellis and the singer’s lives does not build to any great significance and the recording studio setting does not add anything to the piece, particularly since it is juxtaposed with the design by Mark Bailey.
As you walk into the space it does not suggest recording studio. There are rugs on the floor and the audience are seated on mismatched, old fashioned and uncomfortable dining chairs. There are lights hanging from the ceiling, some with lampshades and others exposed to show the pattern of the filament – an effect that has been seen before at The Other Room. Rivers changes costume a few times throughout the show, which does not seem right in the context of recording an album. The use of projection, by Nic Finch, is predominantly lost on the audience as it mostly projects onto the drummer and drum kit making it very difficult to see. The lighting design, by Katy Morison, when dark and moody really helps to focus the senses on the music but having random lights coming on and going off is distracting and the overuse of strobe effects is painful.
Strip this production right back and you have quality storytelling through exciting new music. It is just a shame that there are so many distractions.
Runs until 24 February 2017 | Image: Kieron Cudlip