Chiswick Playhouse, London – until 7 August 2021
From Here is a new British musical with music and lyrics by Ben Barrow and Lucy Ireland. Written entirely on Zoom for a four-person cast, this show is a mix of songs and spoken word pieces, covering moments of transition in life, milestones and memories.
It isn’t a musical in the traditional sense – there is no linear storyline, and the four cast members play a variety of different characters as the show progresses. It probably doesn’t matter which gender they are, either, as most sketches would play just as well with a man or a woman or non-binary actor.
The cast for this premiere is Grace Mouat, Nicola Espallardo, Andrew Patrick Walker and Aidan Harkins. The numbers in which they sing together or provide accompaniment for each other are good; and each has their own solo piece to shine in. These are young performers absolutely at the top of their game.
I wasn’t that convinced by the spoken word pieces, which are rhymed and sometimes come across a little bit glib. For me, From Here is strongest as a collection of songs, although I would not call it a song cycle as such. We start with childhood (Mouat and Espallardo capturing the playground politics of ‘My New Best Friend’) and end with the feelings of loss and memory; but these are really disconnected stories, a quick peek through a window of someone’s reality.
There are some very funny scenes: ‘The Tube’ has Walker as a nervous passenger with something to tell Mouat, his work colleague; ‘Recipe for the Perfect Start’ has Mouat in Zen mode trying not to destroy her day. Elsewhere there is pathos: Walker as the husband and father trying to find a purpose after the children have flown; Espallardo settling into the university that will never be Home to You.
There are friends who fall out in Walker and Hawkins’s perceptive ‘Miles Away’, and family memories in Hawkins’s ‘Smile This Way’, utilising his nan’s gift to make a career. There are bad job interviews and issues around OCD and social media envy. A whole spectrum of recognisable vignettes.
Director Annabelle Hollingdale ensures From Here stays in shape, and the band led by musical director Ian Oakley (with cellist Jessica Brydges and guitarist James William-Pattison) keep the pace moving. There is also excellent use of props and costumes in a clever set (by Jessica Staton) to give a sense of who, when and where we are watching.
Taken as a whole, I felt From Here is not quite fully formed yet despite the excellent performances, but there are enough memorable moments to keep you entertained. Overall, a perfectly decent evening out and a good start from two emerging writers.
From Here is at the Chiswick Playhouse (above the Tabard pub, Turnham Green) until 7 August: book your tickets here.
Image credit: Lucy Gray
LouReviews received a complimentary tocket to review From Here.
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