London Theatre Workshop 29 May – 17 June. Reviewed by Claire Roderick
Streetlights, People!’s production of Ordinary Days is a triumph of minimalism, proving that you don’t need huge sets and effects to stage a quality show. Adam Gwon’s wonderfully conversational songs and a hugely talented cast make this a memorable production, with Jen Coles nifty direction managing to create the feel of a bustling metropolis with only 4 actors.
This is a show about finding the beauty in everyday things, staged on a nearly bare set, with just a stylised New York skyline to give a sense of place. The 4 characters are all struggling to find their place in the big city. Warren (Neil Cameron – with an unbelievably assured and loveable performance on his professional debut) is a struggling artist whose major contribution to the art scene is cat sitting, but he has a glorious world view, finding joy and beauty in the simplest things. He finds a book containing the thesis notes of grad student Deb (Nora Perone) and arranges to meet her to return it. Deb is stuck in a rut with her research, and is full of vague ambition and stress. Her initial disdain develops into a sweet friendship – who could resist the lovely Warren for long? The perfect gay bestie.
Meanwhile Jason (Alistair Frederick) is moving in with his girlfriend Claire (Kirby Hughes), and she’s not really happy about it. The audience are kept in the dark about her reasons for this unwillingness to let go of the past and commit to a new relationship until the penultimate song “I’ll Be Here”, and oh boy, is it a tearjerker. Have your tissues ready for that one.
That’s about it, really. Simple, but very, very effective, and affecting. The cast keep you gripped, and are all pitch perfect. Kirby Hughes is simply magnificent as Claire, with true emotion in her voice. I promise you, she’ll break your heart. Alistair Frederick is fantastic as Jason, with his strong, smooth voice a lovely match for Hughes. Their argument duet “Fine” is a standout moment. Neil Cameron is the gentle heart of the piece, with a delightful stage presence and excellent voice, while Nora Perone is his perfect foil as the acerbic and exasperated Deb – showing her comedy chops to great effect.
Ordinary Days is a delightful, optimistic take on life, chockablock with great songs, characters and performances. Just what London needs right now, a perfect pick-me-up that will fill your heart with joy. A hidden gem – go and see it while you can.