Set in the intimate yet densely populated space that is the St James Studio, we see a piano lit under a single light with microphones and instruments, including a drum kit, already set on stage for the performers and musicians. The lights dim and the noise of the people at the bar ceases as they take to their seats and the Musical Director for the evening, Tim Evans, and the rest of the band take their places before being introduced by the Director of the concert, Paul Foster.
The Confession Room is a funny piece of original British musical theatre about a group of people who come together to let off steam and tell their embarrassing stories and secrets. Stories and secrets which range from a male divulging his past about a rather obscure ex-girlfriend, to a woman who is exasperated with being thought of as a dumb blonde. Now of course, no musical theatre piece would be complete without a few spanners in the works, such as a rather unconventional counsellor who has unresolved issues of her own, as well as an aloof new comer to the group.
The performance at The St James Studio showed the vast majority of the music from the original two Act show with small segments of dialogue interspersed to create more of a plot and linear narrative between songs. The concert opened with the number ‘Confession Room’ sung by the entire cast except Rebecca Trehearn – who’s entrance was somewhat overplayed for such a small role, as well as a very self-indulgent song. The opening song established the characters, their awkwardness and the variety and individuality of people that a counselling session would have. Although there was only one person missing from this number the stage looked very cramped and tight for space, particularly as the cast were only sharing four microphones. Throughout the show the cast sat and stood on the edge of the stage and around the open spaces of the studio acting as voyeurs, which also created the impression that the audience were included in the counselling session.
The concert showed an array of voices in an unfortunately restricting style of music. Predictably for this style of contemporary musical, it relied on the standard compositional style of popular music as well as crude lyrics to keep the audience engaged, instead of utilising more innovative methods of composition and clever, witty lyrics. Stand out performances came from Stuart Matthew Price and his gorgeously emotive rendition of ‘Second Chances’, and Stephanie Clift for her version of ‘Ditsy Blonde’ and the believability of the delivery of the surrounding dialogue.
Reviewed by Tom Yates