Writer: Nic Harvey
Music: Rob Green
Director: Adam Lenson
Reviewer: Nicole Craft
How do you behave when somebody you love, or didn’t love all that much, or actually utterly loathed on occasion but now can’t possibly say that or you might as well be Satan, dies? There are books and ‘stages’ to tell you how you should feel, when you should grieve, and what to do to cope – but are you really abnormal if you don’t fit in those boxes or follow those rules?
So what about music then? Should songs played at funerals forever make you cry or are they meant to be sung loudly and cheerfully at any given opportunity? If two people do different things, is either of them right, or wrong? And then there’s the question of who gets the possessions, whose they really are after the fact, whether you even have any rights sifting through them…
Set around the notion of five ‘friends’ of the late Jodie coming together in a community recording space to attempt to immortalise her in song, Sheep Soup’s, The Leftovers sets out not to answer any of these questions, but to explore the ways in which we grieve, what exactly an appropriate response is, and how music can play a huge part in our memories, our healing processes and the managing of our struggles – and for the most part it hits the right notes.
Managing to combine five-star, laugh-out-loud funny with two-star, unmemorable dross – The Leftovers is ridiculously difficult to sum up. It has some utterly blinding moments of genius where everything comes together perfectly and you forget this isn’t a main-stage, sold-out production but these are sadly intertwined with long-winded, pointless sections that could have been cut cleanly out and not affected the plot. Act two trumps act one and this is, in part, due to a few of the actors having fully relaxed into their roles.
The cast and creatives are clearly a talented bunch and the on-stage antics are at their best when in full, musical flow with some outstanding vocal abilities on display. Wreh-Asha Walton particularly impresses and although she struggles to get going at the start, her acting feeling a little awkward and forced, she is clearly more comfortable in a musical role and completely blows us away in the end. Philippa Hogg, as Yaz, is start-to-finish impeccable and shines in every aspect – from acting to vocals to unexpected violin-wielding, she is evidently born to grace a stage and does so with natural ease. Ben Welch, who is also General Manager of Sheep Soup, is a close second on this front, portraying the charmingly camp, emotional-defuser, Jim, with style and aplomb while also showing off his musical talents; and Sarah White does well to give character to her fairly ordinary rôle, playing the straightest of the five, Hayley. Tim Murphy is another who takes some time to warm up and there are points during act one where we aren’t sure if he will, but he proves himself in act two and his comedic awkward interruptions become less, well, awkward as the play goes on.
With a cast which combines acting, music and prop movement, a set that is one of the most impressive this reviewer has seen in the B2 studio of late and a mostly catchy score, you’d struggle not to enjoy The Leftovers overall. As you watch, you know it is definitely lacking in parts, however, it’s hard to remember this once you’ve left as it certainly leaves an impression of being on to something good. A production, and a company, with immense potential – Things Can Only Get Better.
Runs Until 26 May 2018 | Image: Pamela Raith Photography