Music: Tamara Saringer
Writer: Tim Gilvin
Director: Grace Taylor
Having won the S&S Award for best un-produced musical in 2014, and the VAULT Festival Origins Award for new writing in 2016, it’s about time Tim Gilvin’s Stay Awake, Jake had a full run at a London theatre. On the one hand, pity that it should be at such a fraught time as this, but on the other, the one-man musical is an ideal format for online viewing.
After a difficult phone call with his girlfriend, Jake, as performed by Ahmed Hamad, has jumped in his car at 2am to drive from London to Carlisle to see her. Trying to keep himself awake, he talks (or sings rather) to himself about how he and his girlfriend met and why, four weeks earlier, she walked out.
The production has been pared back even further than its previously already minimal set-up: Hamad simply stands by a microphone, in t-shirt and jeans. No costume change, no props, just seventy minutes of continuous singing, with a simple accompaniment by Tamara Saringer.
It’s a lot for one performer to shoulder, but Hamad does his best to bring a force of emotions to the fore, expressing an entire narrative arc from present to past. It’s obvious that his girlfriend is the wronged party, but it takes this car journey for Jake to clearly understand why. Hamad is clearly capable of the emotional range, and he isn’t shy to show Jake as a bit of an ass. Gilvin’s script doesn’t quite redeem him entirely, but he certainly shows a man willing to change.
It’s a really interesting idea, to have a revelatory moment laid out for an audience and in just the sort of place these moments occur – in the car on the motorway. And whilst it might sound an unlikely candidate to keep your attention for 70 minutes, Hamad’s performance is strangely magnetic, and the lack of frills merely an aid for concentration.
Reviewed on 18 December 2020