EFR - Reviews of MESS

MESS

Fri 3rd – Sat 18th August 2018

reviews

Katherine Knight

at 09:32 on 7th Aug 2018

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It’s a brave decision to call your show 'Mess'. It practically demands a comparison. Fortunately, this musical offering from Roar Toast Productions is presented with such confidence that it barely seems to recognise the risk, and for the most part this pays off.

Both Imogen Halsey and Michael D. Rasmussen are indubitably talented performers, and are well supported by a three-piece band who faithfully accompany both action and song without being distracting. In fact, the soundtrack achieves the opposite: it is when the music is playing that everything feels right, while silence accompanies scenes of anxiety. It’s a point that easily could have seemed pretentious – fortunately, it stays just the right side of charming.

However, although the songs were pleasant, none of them were particularly memorable; it may be that the jazz stylings compromised the catchiness, but unfortunately I didn’t leave the theatre with a stand-out melody in my head. There were nice touches, such as a repeated refrain mimicking the sound of a ringtone, which were noticed and appreciated. If anything, the songs conveyed a sense of atmosphere more than narrative. It’s pleasant, but not exactly conventional for a musical, and the plot gets lost somewhere in the in-between – for a good portion of the beginning I was confused as to whether Rachel and Adam were partners or friends.

Nevertheless, it is refreshing to see a strong male-female friendship being portrayed positively on the stage – incredibly, I can’t remember the last time I saw such a relationship portrayed at all. And the working chemistry between the two is palpable – you can tell that Halsey and Rasmussen get on as well off the stage as on it. The two practically dance around the small stage and bounce off each other, acting as therapist, companion, and band member all in one. The scenes in which the two perform together are when the show really comes alive – I felt the jump in energy almost immediately, and a smile instinctively crept across my face.

The technophobic undercurrent running through the play feels slightly dated and one-sided – it’s consistently presented as something to fear, rather than balance or embrace – but it does emphasise the human connection music and art can provide. Although Rachel’s life may be messy and our lives disconnected, the performance seems determined to strike a connection with the audience – and even when you’re somewhat lost, it’s a connection ‘Mess’ manages to achieve.

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Ella Gryf-Lowczowska

at 10:03 on 7th Aug 2018

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Three jazz musicians, two musical superstars, and one PhD in Philosophy. Add to this list an electric guitar, a cello, tables, chairs, bean bags, mugs, milk, an assortment of household trinkets and a pair of best friends who are secretly in love with one another. Mix with Disaronno under intimate amber lighting and watch for 55 minutes. Now this might sound like a recipe for disaster, but believe me, ‘Mess’ is anything but sloppy.

‘Mess’ is a musical performance, premised upon the generic tale of a girl who cries over bad boys in the arms of the one guy who silently loves her. A Facebook post announcing the engagement of Rachel’s late boyfriend of four years to her oldest friend sends her into disarray, but as always, her best friend Adam is there to pick up the pieces. Granted, Adam’s impersonation of Sigmund Freud is more questionable than his mismatched red and maroon socks, but it doesn’t detract from the tenderness of his friendship with Rachael, nothing does, that’s the problem. Their friendship revolves around Adam setting aside his own problems in order to “fix Rachael’s mess”, which leaves him “just riding along…drifting through life”. We often feign bravery and set aside our own woes when someone dear to us is suffering, and ‘Mess’ captures this phenomenon very well.

A real tour de force of theatrical music, the duo deftly progress through the score. Rachael strokes her cello and I immediately feel the sensation of velvet rippling over my ear drums; Adam seizes his guitar as the band bring up the rear with boisterous riffs and suddenly Greenside auditorium is alive with the sound of music. As the pair sing and dance their way to merriment it becomes manifest that Adam’s vocal range is somewhat limited, in fact his deep voice markedly plateaus whenever the octave rises above the pitch of normal speech. That said, we should cut him some slack. I am only criticising him relative to Rachael, whose angelic voice is characterised by such richness that hearing her sing is like watching a million magical ingredients fizz and infuse with each other in the belly of a cauldron.

Well, lord knows the heat in this stuffy venue certainly matches that of a witches melting pot! But ‘Mess’ is a wonderful rendition of the woes and the wonders of being in the friendzone.

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