Music and lyrics: Kyle Jarrow
Book: Clay McLeod Chapman
Director: James Veitch
Reviewer: Jessica Gray
Hostage Song is both an unconventional yet tender story of budding friendship and a no holds barred edgy rock show. The indie rock musical, which first ran off-Broadway in 2008, is the work of writer Clay McLeod Chapman and composer and lyricist Kyle Jarrow. This short run at the Finborough Theatre, directed by James Veitch, is the shows European premiere.
The musical tells the story of two hostages who bond during their time held blindfolded and bound in a cell together, during which they play games like I spy and act out vivid fantasies of being with their families at home. The show has a deep emotional core and beyond the story of two people who have been kidnapped it is about the relationship built between them as they await whatever fate is approaching, and the relationships they are leaving behind.
Leading a cast of just five are Michael Matus as Jim and Verity Marshall as Jennifer. Matus plays the character of Jim with a droll, sarcastic note which makes him interesting to watch particularly during his final scenes which are somehow both joyous and harrowing. Marshall brings a youthful, sensitive edge to the scenes as you watch Jennifer try and fail to cope, as she begins to unravel – their gritty recital of the songs matches the feel of the piece as a whole.
The Finborough Theatre provides a fitting space for the show, an intimate venue for such a raw story which helps the audience to feel more emotionally connected with the characters. In a larger venue the show wouldn’t work but here it feels just right – authentic but not too much to make the audience uncomfortable. The set and lighting design are incredibly simple but again this only adds to the authenticity of the piece.
Jarrow’s score and lyrics which are performed by a band constantly on stage, a real highlight of the performance, are a giddy mix of fun indie rock and heartfelt ballads. While perhaps the songs do nothing to help the story along they do compliment it exceedingly well. For the first half of the show the music is a welcome break for the audience from the increasingly sombre story, at least until the lyrics begin to deepen and become more intertwined with the story around the half-way point. Truthfully the audience is granted very little time for distraction or amusement during the show since even its humour is very dark.
Hostage Song is an extremely bleak piece of theatre however given the topic it certainly should not come as a surprise that watching this is no walk in the park. Strong performance, exceptional writing and superb music make this an enjoyable show well worth watching – just don’t expect to come out smiling.
Photo: Katie Pillidge | Runs until 8th July