The Nursery Theatre, London – until Monday 16 April 2018
Reviewed by Lisa Harlow
Being a city dweller for many years, I was keen to enjoy this musical exploring the highs and lows of city living in New York. Thankfully it didn’t disappoint. Although some of the characters could have been cliché, and indeed the struggling actor seeking fame amongst the bright lights followed an expected path (Cooper, played by Jack Anthony Smart), I still found all of the storylines and performances engaging. Also featuring is an ambitious young lawyer, a home loving architect struggling with city life, a girlfriend who comes to the City with her Wall Street boyfriend, and a singer who follows every fad going but is actually driven by the terror that her eggs will expire before being able to be used.
The actors silently float on stage initially, paying sole attention to their phones ahead of the start of the play and mimicking many of the audience. The launch song from which the musical is titled, ‘Island Song’, ensures this spell is broken. It begins with great energy, heartwarming harmonies and strong vocal performances which continue throughout. I’m drawn in immediately. The movement and co-ordination on the stage is well thought out and makes good use of the space for the whole musical.
The true highlights are the witty humour that comes from the character Shoshana (Stephanie Lyse), whose awareness of her consistent oversharing does not stop her doing so. This includes a first date which is both hilarious and excruciating. The Hipsters’ lyrics are also very well written, drole and perfectly executed by the actors.
There were moments of reflection that were of equal weight to the humour within the musical: “simple, silent moments” that happen away from the crowds and the masks people wear to brave the brashness of the city. Small moments of unseen kindness that take place when one of the other characters’ true vulnerability and struggle is exposed. These brief moments of connection within a fast-paced City created tipping points with far reaching and beneficial consequences in Island Song.
And it was during these moments, that I felt a small tear in my eye – a knowing nod from one city dweller to another.