Down the road from the Royal Albert Hall, above the Drayton Arms pub, is a surprisingly huge fringe theatre venue. Audience members took their seat on denim jean upholstered benches facing 8 empty stools, waiting for what would be a 70 minute seamless song cycle called, ‘The Theory of Relativity’.
Who knew science could couple so nicely with Musical Theatre? Neil Bartram and Brian Hill’s chamber musical tastefully threads together the cause and effect, actions and reactions, of… people. It looks at the science of people’s hearts, zooming in and hearing their individual stories and drawing parallels to, yes, believe it or not, Newton’s laws of motion.
This show was originally conceived in Canada in 2013 as a showcase for a 16 person cast at Sherdian’s College. Since then, it has undergone some surgical cuts and changes. Downsizing the cast to half, director Christopher Lane presents the stories and actors with more interlinks and overlaps than in the original structure. This format, and small cast size, suits the show perfectly. With simple staging and zero set, the actors do all the work – and what a great job they did.
With a sprinkling of Stephen Schwarts and dash of Jason Robert Brown, the music presents a mix of comedy and heart. The song cycle is interspersed with incredible monologues, which really ground the show. My favourite moments include the female duet, ’The End of the Line’ (sung by Ina Marie Smith and Natasha Karp) and the light hearted number, Apples & Oranges, led by Joshua LeClair. This song is a subtle explanation of one’s sexual orientation — it’s as simple as choosing your favourite fruit!
Relatively speaking, this show offers something that most contemporary musical theatre audiences simply aren’t getting enough of: gorgeous snippets of story telling. This isn’t a razzle dazzle performance. It’s sweet, simple, and sincere.
Musical Director, Barney Ashworth, carries the cast start to finish alone on the keyboard. The simplicity, again, is spot on; an element that echoes in Christopher Lane’s staging and direction.
This stellar cast, featuring the big voice of WestEnd regular, Simon Bailey, deliver new songs with strong ensemble voicings. My only hope was to have seen more of some cast members – but alas that’s how the cookie crumbles. And, indeed, wanting more is far better than wanting less.
If you’re looking for fringe theatre with no frills or complications just great story telling, this show is the right equation.
Reviewed by Ruthie Luff
Photo: Poppy Carter
Theory of Relativity is playing at The Drayton Arms Theatre until June 13th, Click here for tickets