Sunday 21 January 2018

Wailing about love non-stop conquers all

John McKeown

Rent

Bord Gais Energy theatre

The stage is dominated by metal scaffolding, stairs, walkways, and ramps. Along the few feet left along the front stage, the open-ended story of a group of Lower East Side bohemians unfolds.

Or at least the American version of bohemians. Gay or straight they're fanatically monogamous. And take them out of their sportswear and leather and they'd easily pass as hippies. For love is all, or at least wailing about it 'X-Factor'-style is.

Jonathan Larson's 20-year-old musical is a sing-through with a vengeance and nothing, apart from the wailing, stands out distinctly. The story's narrated by Mark (Paul Ayres) a singing nerd dogged by poverty who wants to make movies.

He co-habits with the all-singing all-whining all-strumming Roger (Rory Taylor) who wants love more than musical success and finds it and loses it and finds it with local junkie and dirty dancer Mimi (Rachel John). Then there's Maureen (Natasha Hamilton) a hyperactive performance artist having girlfriend problems with Joanne (Hannah Levane).

The only happy couple are the transvestite Angel (Ian Stroughair) and Collins (Leon Lopez). Before love resolves all there's a riot, evictions, career compromises, and a funeral. But none of it has any significance or makes any emotional impact whatsoever, except on the stomach, which churns under the maudlin musical cacophony.

Larson does have a few good tunes,but they quickly degenerate into syrup.

He is trying to do realism a la Sondheim, and succeeds in being him but with the wit, rhythm and imagination surgically removed.

Irish Independent

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