Who’d have thought that we’d all be gathering round to watch a new folk musical by the end of August? Not me – I thought we were goners until at least Christmastime. Nonetheless, theatre has been given the green light, and after the recent opening of Jesus Christ Superstar at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, more socially distanced, outdoor theatre is cropping up. Now, Willow Talk productions brings us St. Anne Comes Home, a new folk musical with book and lyrics by Jack Miles, and the beginnings of a very exciting new age of theatre.
The story centres on James (Jordan Castle). He’s homeless and wanders into a churchyard one day – from then on, he touches lives irreparably, and is changed forever in return. With Mathew Craig as Russell the Priest, and Rebecca McKinnis as Bridget, the trio make for a magnetic evening. Craig is gently official as Russell, while Bridget is calm and headstrong. As for Castle? I have one question I’d direct at him: where have you been? With his exceptional clear voice, comic timing and positive energy, Castle gives James an earnest demeanour that is irresistible. He’s radiant with talent.
With music, book and lyrics all by Jack Miles, St. Anne Comes Home is a marvel really, and I’m glad that something that has obviously had a lot of work poured into it is finally getting to see the light of day. There are some twee, cheesy lyrics that certainly won’t be to everyone’s taste – but I don’t think I need to tell you that if you don’t really enjoy folk music or musicals that St. Anne might not be your cup of tea. Directed by Martha Geelan, there is very little of anything else to this production other than the music, but luckily the music and story is almost strong enough to stand alone. Perhaps if I’d have been dressed more appropriately to sit in a bitingly cold church courtyard and had not had a fateful chai latte before being told there was no toilet on the premises (or anywhere in the surrounding area), then I would’ve found the time flew by. But, I didn’t, and so these things must be taken into account in the world of post-lockdown theatre.
As far as socially-distanced outdoor musicals go, St. Anne Comes Home is about as good as you’re going to get. With an incredible cast and a touching story of community and togetherness, I’m excited to see how this show progresses.
St. Anne Comes Home played the St. Paul’s Church Courtyard, Covent Garden until 30 August 2020. For more information, visit the Jack Miles Music website