The Other Palace, London – also plays on 7 September 2019
With an influx of Broadway transfers and film/book to movie adaptations dominating the London theatre scene, it’s always wonderful to see new British theatre developing. The Feeling by Kyra Jessica Willis is a good example of this, as it brings social troubles to light in a headstrong way that feels authentically British.
The Feeling follows a tight knit group of friends who congregate in their local cafe to chat, moan and laugh. Various issues begin to plague the group as they struggle through life’s ups and downs and we see how easy it is to fall apart.
The small cast features cafe owner Mel (Halie Darling) who is a little unsure of herself as she begins a relationship with geeky and incredibly caring Jamie (George C Francis). Kyra Jessica Willis plays the snide Jessie who has an innuendo to offer at every moment; with PJ Tomlinson playing her ex and moral supporter Kasey.
Chloe Hazel brings the psychologically controlling Edie to life and Chris Barton is Holt, the new man in Jessie’s life. Completing the cast are Pippa Lea as Lexie and Sean Erwood as Archie who have a good chemistry with one another and provide some touching moments.
Director George C Francis does a good job of utilising the small stage of The Other Palace but at times there seems to be either too much or too little going on in terms of action. The cast members are clearly developing their characters as they exchange knowing glances which extend beyond the text, but these sometimes detract from crucial moments on stage. This is especially evident when conversations continue as the cast exit the stage and space. Whilst, at times this brings an effective realism to the characters, at others it takes away from the main action and would perhaps be more efficient if mimed.
The text lends itself to being a straight play but this show takes on a jukebox format, with several pop songs dotted throughout to further the drama and emotions. Often these work but the show could work equally well as a sleek play, perhaps with musical interludes to fill scene changes as opposed to full songs.
Despite this, the song choices are catchy and there are a number of strong performances, especially from Pippa Lea and Chloe Hazel. From Kelly Clarkson to Kate Nash, there’s a variety of music that does provide entertainment and varies the tone throughout. The lighting changes from the spoken scenes to the sung scenes are somewhat abrupt in their contrast but do a good job of differentiating the emotions from being internal to external.
As Willis’ first foray into theatrical writing, this is a production which shows promise and a positive willingness to create new work which sheds light on intense subjects. For the most part the dialogue is realistic, the characters are well defined and the subject matter is delicately handled. There are several tweaks which can made in terms of rounding out the story and bringing further truth to the text, and the show definitely needs to be streamlined to make it a real competitor in the theatre scene, but as a work in progress The Feeling definitely has potential. Monsteers Artistry continues to rattle forward with innovative ways to break down barriers in the theatre industry and provide opportunities for a range of people, something which can only be applauded.
The Feeling plays at The Other Palace on 7th September at 3pm and 8pm