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Ordinary Days

by on 30 July 2022

View of Your Dreams

Ordinary Days

by Adam Gwon

BB Theatre Productions at Studio One, South Hill Park Arts Centre, Bracknell until 31st July then at the Edinburgh Fringe until 28th August

Review by Nick Swyft

‘Never let tall buildings obscure the view of your dreams’ or ‘real lives make the best movies’.  These and other words of life advice are distributed to an uninterested New York population by Warren (Niven Willet).  Warren is a penniless failed assistant to a failed artist, whose vision is nevertheless clear.  He picks things up from the street, pieces of people’s lives, seeing the beauty of those lives in everything he collects.  If such people end up in shop doorways, frying their brains on meths, perhaps it’s worth seeing them in a different light, and picking up the pieces of their lives.

One of the things he picks up is a book containing notes that Debs (Georgia Parsons) has lost.  These are vital for her dissertation on Virginia Woolf, but fortunately the notes include her e-mail address which Warren uses to make contact with her.

Debs is another drifter in her way, who ends up with no enthusiasm for her subject.  Her attitude mirrors the blinkered somewhat OCD attitude that characterises modern life.  One is left with the impression that she is just going through the motions to achieve her dream, which is to get a nice apartment and to write a ‘required reading’ book.  Still, she dismisses Warren as a ‘weirdo’ at first, until she realises that he just might be her salvation.

Claire (Sophie Spencer) and Jason (Ashleigh Wells) are kind-of orbiting around each other.  There is an attraction there, but they are different people and clearly annoy each other.  When, during an argument, Jason desperately says ‘marry me’, she spirals off on a drunken spree.  Here, we learn about the underlying tragedy in her life, and when she faces up to it and accepts Jason, it is genuinely moving.

There is little meaningful interaction between the two different couples that I could detect, but their stories are clearly parallel as each finds fulfilment, through inauspicious relationships.

Musical theatre is not my thing. I like singing, and I like theatre, but for me, mixing the two is like putting ketchup with your strawberries.  Who knows, maybe it works!  And actually, this did for me.  There was no other way the play could have been done, thinking about it.  A lot of it depended on internal monologue, which would have been wearing in play form, and putting their thoughts into song dovetailed nicely with the message of the play, which was that beauty is found in ordinary things.  Director TJ Lloyd, himself an accomplished musical performer and his ensemble of four have swung my thinking.

Studio One of the South Hill Park Arts Centre was perhaps not the best venue as it was too small, and the set was very sparse.  As it was, this first night was sold out. The singers need a bigger auditorium in which to project.  Exceptionally for a musical, the singers are not miked, but all four of the experienced cast have strong voices, which carry well acoustically.  They are supported by Richard Whennell’s excellent piano accompaniment.

Both the acting and the singing were first class from all the performers, and their New York accents were flawless – at least to a British listener.  Who knows, maybe Hollywood awaits!  I’ve already mentioned Claire’s marriage acceptance, but there were also some funny moments with the interactions between Debs and Warren and when Claire admonishes her taxi driver for asking her where she wanted to go. ‘You’re the professional, you’re supposed to know these things!’

Ordinary Days was originally written by Adam Gwon and produced by BB Theatre Productions for a run of four performances at South Hill Park, after which it will go to the Edinburgh Fringe.

BB Productions was established in 2016 and continues to go from strength to strength introducing new talent to the stage.  It is also performing Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins alongside this production.

Nick Swyft, July 2022

Photography courtesy of BB Productions

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