Streaming Live 1 – 3 April – Book via https://sohotheatre.com/events/open-mic-play/
Reviewed by Claire Roderick
Rob Drummond comperes an open mic evening live from the Soho Theatre directed by Richard Twyman, which can be watched as a live stream, or joined online as part of the audience in the room – seen on large screens around the room, with mannequins sitting at the tables in front of the stage.
Drummond quickly puts the audience and performers at ease, repeatedly assuring us that this is a place with no judgement, just do your best, as the show begins.
Seven people perform – mostly singers, but also a poet and a frantically funny stand up – and they are all warmly received, with the familiar glitches that come with online meetings ever-present but making the realisation that we’re together for this event more triumphant.
Drummond chats to each contributor about their experiences of lockdown, and the conversations soon tackle depression, drinking, and the damage that isolation does to mental health. Drummond always brings us back to a lighter tone, but there is an underlying melancholy to Drummond and the show that can’t be dismissed as the benefits of, and need for, touch and physical interaction are repeated.
As Drummond discusses his experiences and his one-off rule-breaking, the audience is asked to raise their hands if they broke the rules during lockdown – a few brave souls admit this.
It’s when the final performer, an older lady called Val, is introduced that things start coming together. A technical hiccup means that Drummond’s words are echoed and come back to haunt him, and as Val talks about her shielding and says that it’s not on to break the rules, Drummond’s compere finally reveals the guilt that he’s carrying. All the conversations with the other performers have fed into this, and it leaves you wondering if this was skilful interviewing, or the entire show is scripted. But that doesn’t really matter – the message that you just have to do your best without judgement that has been woven through the show hits just as hard either way.