Nine talented singers and the occasional witty lyric do not a new musical make. This is the world premiere of Drive, Ride, Walk, although there doesn’t seem to be much new or premier about it. An underdeveloped concept is tested to the limit, and staged in a dated and hackneyed style. As I left the theatre, I found myself reading the synopsis on the poster in the hope of understanding what I’d just witnessed. Drive, Ride, Walk promised to tell three stories united by their common theme of London transport, but I didn’t notice any plot development in the long hour, or indeed any link between the vast majority of the music. The overall feel of the show is an unfocused and scattergun exploration of the subject, and any initial potential is eventually undeveloped to the point of tedium. I spent an hour on public transport to get to the venue, full of intrigued excitement for the way that this journey could be explored through a theatrical medium, and an hour coming home none the wiser.
It’s worth stressing that the nine-strong ensemble are, for the most part, talented and engaging performers. They make the most of the lacklustre material and imbue the characters with an enthusiasm and vitality that I found hard to match as an audience member. There are a few dodgy notes, and a few embarrassingly caricatured performances, but overall, the cast excel. Similarly, there are hints of decent songwriting – the harmonies are well crafted and often carried off with aplomb, and occasionally the lyrics are witty and well observed. Unfortunately, Osnat Schmool’s tongue is not firmly enough in cheek for the majority of the composition and Sabina Netherclift’s staging is not inventive enough to cover the cracks.
The lighting is shoddy, the staging uninspired and repetitive, and, as a result, the whole product feels generally apologetic and half-hearted. The overall impression is of a work in progress – an interesting idea that is never quite explored in enough detail to create any sense of tension or drama. There are a few awkward attempts to stray into philosophical territory and deal with serious issues, but these are immediately undermined by songwriting which swings between the meaningful and the vacuous. I was left with no idea as to what the intended story or message was – was the repeated stylised somersault representative of suicide, or of a clumsy man falling onto his arse every morning?
It’s a real shame, as the opening moments and concept were promising. Perhaps if the majority of the show was trimmed and rearranged to be performed in an invisible theatre environment, with the cast popping up and singing on a real life tube train (as their promotional material hints), Drive, Ride, Walk might begin to fulfill its potential as an intelligent T-mobile advert. As it is, however, it feels uncomfortably out of its depth in a proper theatre with a paying audience.
Drive, Ride, Walk played at the Stratford Circus and is the work of Filament Theatre, for more information on the company see its website here.