I really enjoy when a cast in a musical is singing the final song, with gleaming faces, and I find myself gleaming back at them. For what reasons specifically? There are so many, but most importantly, due to a sense of pride that this is the work that young performers and creators are making.
The Theory of Relativity is a musical performing at the Drayton Arms, a classy pub theatre. The show was originally developed at the Canadian Music Theatre Project, and has evolved in a way that is suitable for many audiences, despite being predominantly created for and about college students. The Drayton Arms Theatre is a very appropriate theatre for a show of this calibre. It has an expected intimate seating arrangement, but a large stage that allows the characters to explore the space vastly.
The show starts with an array of mathematical equations, which is unexpected and intrigues the audience immediately. The songs, lyrics and words throughout the entire piece are written in beautiful harmony with each other. It’s a concept musical, and I found the concept to be very clever indeed. It doesn’t particularly need a deep and emotionally taxing plot line, as the stories of the characters interweave and are written and told with such truth. There are moments of heartache, but the repetitive theme of optimism is shown realistically, displaying how relatable these characters are. These themes are accessible, and what I loved about it was that they are realistic, rather than a typical ‘love conquers all’ story. The characters walk you through their thought processes in a logical way that synchronises vastly with the music. It’s incredibly pleasing to listen to.
The song that really stands out in terms of written perfection is ‘Pi 1, 2, 2.5 and 3’. Rhythmically it is just an absolute joy to listen to. I have to confess myself to be a bit of a music geek, and I completely revelled in the creativity of the score. The fact that the words are not only fitting to the music, but fit perfectly with the characters is definitely a sign of a strong musical.
The genius of the lyrics and book is integrated with clever direction. There are no props or even set, apart from eight stools, which the actors move in neat succession with the songs in order for the characters to turn around to face the audience at appropriate points when a character’s path clashes with another. It’s a very effective way to prove the point they are making without being too obvious. The actors use the stage very well throughout, exploring all areas, which is aesthetically pleasing.
The ensemble perform spectacularly as a tight-knit group, keeping in perfect balance with each other at all times, something that is challenging and shows the cast’s committed work with musical director Barney Ashworth. The inventive harmonies, sung so elegantly, made the hairs on my arms stand up on many occasions. The cast seem collectively engaged and excited from the first note. Immediately I noticed the sheer power behind Jodie Steele’s magnificent voice, as well as Simon Bailey’s fantastic attention to detail in the consistent sense of nervousness that his character has. His energy never drops throughout the entire performance, and a lot of the time I felt my gaze magnetised towards him. Bailey doesn’t overplay the nervousness in the slightest; the character choices he makes fit perfectly and I was always interested to watch his inventive yet innate movements throughout.
Natasha Karp as the OCD girlfriend is absolutely hilarious. She adds so many colours despite the repetition in her monologue. It is a joy to watch her journey through her difficulties, coming to terms with the fact that the one she loves made her a cake (with his own two hands!). She is again perfectly comical in the duet with Ina Marie Smith; they make a great pair and bounce off each other’s energies. It’s a niche that Karp plays and suits brilliantly, and she is absolutely perfect for the part. Smith, on the other hand, shows a deeply vulnerable and softer side in the song ‘Promise Me This’, showing her vast flexibility. The honesty in her performance is completely captivating, and actually made me shed a few tears. Again like Bailey, and the rest of the cast when they in turn have their solo moments, she doesn’t overplay the sadness in her story in order to achieve the optimism resolved in the end, but tells the story through complete authenticity; this in turn makes the emotional journey for the audience even stronger.
I could go on all night about the cast because they are all superb – or the whole show, rather. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is just the beginning for The Theory of Relativity, as it shows such promising talent woven with unique stories. All this, matched with the genius in the writing, and you have yourself a very watchable show.
This production deserves to do well, both in this run and in the future. Whether you’re a fan of musicals or not, make sure you give The Theory of Relativity a go. It’s a very interesting and likeable show, and I would more than happily watch it again – after I’ve finished listening to the original song recordings on repeat!
The Theory of Relativity is playing at the Drayton Arms Theatre until 13 June. For more information and tickets, see the Drayton Arms Theatre.