Music: Ashley MA Walsh
Lyrics: Lloyd Eyre-Morgan, Neil Ely, and Jack Bennetts
Book: Lloyd Eyre-Morgan and Neil Ely
Director: Lloyd Eyre-Morgan
Reviewer: Sam Lowe
The well-known phrase, “Coming out of the closet’, has been taken literally for tonight’s show, Closets – a new musical that travels across time and space.
It’s the year 1988, 16-year-old Henry (Sam Retford) is struggling with his sexuality, especially as his mother Susan (Hayley Tamaddon) is not very accepting. Henry discovers his closet possesses the extraordinary power of time travel. He travels to 2018 and meets Ben (Lloyd Daniels) who is the same age dealing with similar issues to Henry. They instantly connect with one another and decide to embark on a journey to various places and time zones, including New York’s Stonewall Bar in 1969.
This musical explores the delicate relationship between mother and son. Susan wants to love her son, but her past relationship and living in a homophobic society make it difficult for her to accept his sexuality. On the opposite end of the timeline, Penny (Sophie Ellicott) mother to Ben, is a liberal-minded nurse and accepting of the LGBTQ community. But, perhaps she mothers him too much and is overly protective. There are themes of aspirations and dreams: dreaming of the past, broken dreams, and longing to be your authentic self. While the present day world seems to be notably more respectful of the LGBTQ community when compared to the past, there are still examples of hate crime that happen today.
Retford’s portrayal of Henry shows many layers, you see him confidently owning his sexuality and identity in the comfort and privacy of his room. Although, you witness times where he is vulnerable and frightened as well. Henry’s genuine love and care for Ben is the kind of love that is missing from his relationship with Susan. Daniel’s interpretation of Ben is sweet and innocent; his high pitched whining saying, “I want to go home”, is particularly funny. There was a lovely vibe coming from all of the cast when they are present onstage. Georgia Conlan gives an eye-catching performance playing the younger Susan and a part in the ensemble. She effortlessly transforms herself from one role to the other. Her characterisation and presence bring the character to life; helping us to understand the hurt Susan went through.
The “technicolour” lighting, as designed by Joseph Thomas, is another production element that stands out. It makes Henry’s dream of wanting to be onstage dynamic and alive, and the darker moments of the musical rather poignant. The music in the show is a combination of upbeat pop songs and ballads. Though, some of the ballads switch to being more up-tempo and positive, the lyrics in some songs feel a little cliché and predictable, however, there are times when they are moving and quite inspirational. One of the best songs in the show has to be Protection, performed absolutely fabulously by Ellicott. The comedy is on point.
While the storyline and some of the songs are rather foreseeable, the performances by the company bring this time traveling, feel-good show to life. This is an entertaining, celebratory, and jubilant new musical.
Runs until 23rd August 2018 | Image: Contributed