Review: Ordinary Days, Drayton Arms Theatre

It is getting darker and colder in London and Christmas is still a month away. Now is the right time for an escape into an optimistic musical about the Ordinary Days in our lives.

Adam Gwon’s musical Ordinary Days is directed by Jen Coles and produced by the emerging Streetlights, People! Productions, which is founded by Coles and Nora Perone, who also portrays one of the female character of the show. This version of the musical premiered in 2016 at the Hen & Chickens Theatre, had an award-winning run at the Edinburgh Fringe 2017 and transfers now to the intimate stage at Drayton Arms Theatre.

Ordinary Days is about four people who search for their life story in New York. There is couple Claire (Natalie Day) and Jason (Taite-Elliot Drew) who, after moving in together, realise that “The Space Between” them is not automatically filled by the physical closeness that their flat provides. Furthermore, there is aspiring artist Warren (Neil Cameron) who meets Deb (Nora Perone), the cynical and restless graduate, because of an incident of a lost notebook filled with thesis research. Their four lives cross and touch each other’s, even in the jungle of anonymity.

The story is entirely made off 21 songs that guide the audience through the chaotic streets of New York and give insights to the four very different perspectives. The embodiment of the characters is executed convincingly through their lively singing performances. In particular, Day reveals a brilliant repertoire of singing and acting skills, which also reflects in the bonding to her co-actor Drew. The skilful performance of Musical Director Rowland Braché on the piano accompanies the cast and thus, creates a harmonic and connecting ensemble.

Even though the story seems to be stereotypical, it is captivating through its detailed portrayal of the four individuals, which goes beyond a cliché. The energy of the cast is contagious, making the show highly enjoyable and especially amusing in its wit displayed by the interrupting song lines. As the basic setting and the small theatre space demands for imagination, the connection is sometimes lost. In the beginning, the stage is hardly fully occupied and performance directions are occasionally unclear throughout the run. Although the stage presence is strong, Perone needs to be careful to not limit herself to an overly satirical embodiment.

Sometimes all that is needed is a song and a kitschy slogan to perceive the beauty of the everyday, which is, as Warren stresses, only visible though the reflection of the individual frame of significance and perception. Sometimes all that is needed is a reminder to appreciate the here and now and to regard ourselves as the narrator of our own life story who is always able to re-write and fabulate a “bigger picture”. Sometimes, a stranger or small gestures can make the invisible visible and create a much bigger impact than we assume.

The light and optimistic tone of Ordinary Days is the right pitch to brighten the dark pre-Christmas days in London and to distance from our own ordinary days. As a result of this bubbly and heart-warming performance, maybe there will be a change in our perception and we’ll be encouraged to cherish our time differently.

Ordinary Days is playing at Drayton Arms Theatre until December 9 2017.

Photo: Natalie Lomako