I have visited the Finborough Theatre on numerous occasions and yet have still succeeded in getting lost every single time. Despite its secluded location, the quality of work is consistently impressive. It certainly upholds the amount of awards it has accumulated and Rooms is no exception.
The plot line certainly isn’t anything you haven’t heard before; boy meets girl, boy makes music with girl and they fall in love, they run away together, fall out and reconcile. It’s difficult to ignore comparisons with a newly opened show in the West End and admittedly it is essentially a Scottish version of Once. But the appeal of this particular production is the genuine chemistry between the solitary two characters. Under the direction of Andrew Keates, Alexis Gerred and Cassidy Janson play the Glaswegian punk lovers in a whirlwind from Scotland to London to New York in their suspiciously easily-achieved success as musicians. The transitions between comedic songs and genuinely moving scenarios are incredibly smooth and emotive, and clearly demonstrate their versatility.
The score (by Paul Scott Goodman) is, in my opinion, too Musical Theatre to be classed as punk, especially when executed by polished vocals, but it still packs a punch. Janson’s powerful voice envelops the tiny space of the Finborough Theatre whilst Gerred’s voice contrasts in a subtle yet melancholic way. They both boast impressive West End repertoires and their voices gel together in an enchanting way, and as a couple they are very entertaining. The highly skilled on-stage four-piece band provide a unique intimacy as they chat to the audience and strum at their instruments prior to the performance, and involve themselves in the drama at appropriate moments.
One of the many perks of the Finborough is the versatility of its space; although small, they have managed to manipulate it to create various ‘rooms’ and continents across the stage and still directly involve audience members. The lighting design is clever and complex for such an intimate venue, taking us in and out of the characters’ minds and viewpoints. It appears they have tried to recreate a rock concert, but with an audience of only 20 this is easier said than done; they are trying too hard to do something they cannot achieve.
The representation of the punk era is rather timid with a few references to parties and drug abuse which don’t paint an accurate picture, and other serious issues of the time are somewhat glazed over. However, its 90 minute run-time does not overstay its welcome and there are no unnecessary songs or plot lines.
Rooms makes for an enjoyable piece of theatre. It is in no way ground-breaking and the plot veers toward cliché, but it is enough to satisfy most theatre goers and adds another strong production to the Finborough Theatre’s catalogue.
Rooms is playing at Finborough Theatre until Saturday 18 May. For more information and tickets, see Finborough Theatre website.