Therapy is a very odd little musical from No Shoes Theatre; from an established creative team, I can only wonder how this came to be. The first and foremost issue with a musical is probably finding a story that warrants bursting into song. Therapy is an expression of grief, but one that is jarringly delivered.
Every song and speech stops and starts without much flow between them. This does convey a sense of the fractured nature of their existence, but is a bumpy ride for the spectator. Alexander Wright’s writing is intelligent. The characters know the secret they share all too well, but the audience don’t, and Wright doesn’t patronise them with the details but reveals them slowly. Over the hour (which does feel rather drawn out as the storyline is very simple) Wright’s writing exhibits the characters’ traits without any long expository speeches which are difficult to avoid in musical theatre. As a result, we get to know the Patient (Christopher Cowley) and the Therapist (Adam Rhys-Davies) as individuals before judging them according to the accident that links them.
In order to keep the secret however, the musical is a repetition of scenes where the Therapist threatens to leave, but never actually does because he knows deep down he has his own demons to confront. There’s something cramped and claustrophobic about this structure. The Patient has been to see hundreds of therapists but knows that he can only come to terms with the death of his son if he sees this particular Therapist who won’t treat it like an incident, because he was there and understands. The characters that have been constructed are complex – the Therapist in particular. Adam Rhys-Davies’ hard façade is slowly stripped back, and the way in which he makes eye contact with the audience during his monologues makes him come across as a personable character despite his initial coldness towards his patient. As the patient, Christopher Cowley is sweetly haunted, his performance is extremely mature.
Together, Cowley and Rhys-Davies make some gorgeous sounds. The music (composed by Gavin Whitworth) itself has a dream-like quality to it, but at times feels at odds with the more grounded dialogue. The lyrics, unlike the spoken lines, do occasionally border on being too romanticised too.
Despite the very personal, psychological journey these characters go through mentally in this compelling story – which sets it apart from familiar musical theatre clichés – Bracken Burns’ direction of Therapy results in an extremely static production where the songs and speech just don’t seem to gel.
*** – 3/5 stars
Therapy plays at C Nova until 27 August as part of the Edinburgh Festival. For more information and tickets, see the Edinburgh Fringe website.