Writers and Directors: Various
After a difficult and reactive 18-months for drama students, a small group of Mountview graduates have taken matters into their own hands, forming Catapult Theatre London and releasing five YouTube episodes showcasing their considerable musical talents by performing an anthology of stage and film musical as well as chart-toping songs each given a unique pop video production that shows these kids are definitely alright.
Almost a year after the Zoom theatre revolution began and after the long 2021 lockdown, Catapult Theatre London released its first Theatre Channel-style online episode featuring four songs followed at regular intervals with further 10-minute sets culminating in a finale rock special in September. Each episode selects three or four unusual songs from a wide range of influences and, while largely filmed separately in their bedrooms, combines different voices to create a much bigger sound within the harmonies.
And here, The Kids Are Alright plays to its strengths with a vast vocal range and an extremely talented ensemble whose interpretation of the songs is strong. The complex work of capturing those voices and blending them together is managed seamlessly by sound editors including Mark Warman, Katy Reynard and Hannah Cound, and there is a consistency of style across the five Acts that allows individuals to shine before building to a far bigger combination of sound within each song as the vocals meld together.
There is a sense of the company getting used to the concept and the first four episodes are overly directed by multiple people throwing the same ideas at every song. They use split screens, Zoom boxes, cut shots and other visual effects which change every few seconds and proves a distraction from the music. Less is more, and while there are lots of people to feature, these sections feel overly frenetic whereas the simplicity of a voice performing a song has all the necessary power that is needed.
Song selection is interesting, quite ballad-focused with lots of uplifting numbers about sunny days which lacks a little variety if all episodes are watched successively, despite coming from Waitress, Mean Girls, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Candid and Into the Woods. And there is a tendency to pick music for multiple voices which is extremely democratic, but solos and duets would add depth to the line up while perhaps offering greater opportunities for storytelling within songs and across episodes.
And just as the style was becomes a little repetitive, Carys Wynn’s rock special addresses some of these earlier concerns with a calmer directional style that offers a more exciting approach, filming a continual melody that combines the greatest rock songs you can think of – including The Runner, Baby Blue, Summer of 69, Here I Go Again and Poison – and stages them in graffitied urban environments all over London with the full cast able to meet and perform together in person.
You really have to admire a group of young performers taking their future into their own hands and finding ways to showcase their talents within the restrictions, and watching The Kids Are Alright, you see the development of their skill as filmmakers embracing a hybrid world no one was ready for. With the rock special, the anthology series seems to be heading in a new, more confident direction and Catapult Theatre can now be really ambitious.