Given the results of yesterday’s referendum, a post about Departures seems apposite, so here’s my review.
I entered the theatre on Wednesday night expecting to like Departures: A Song Cycle. I didn’t. I loved it.
The theatre was intimate; the seating comfortable (always a bonus for the audience). The station platform set was simple but effective. The musicians were backstage but visible through an ‘exit’. The music was by turns fun, energetic, moving; the themes were current.
Each story was revealed in song, with characters only really joining in with the ensemble as their particular tale was told, rather like a matryoshka doll in reverse. The songs varied in style and tone, just like the themes. We were told of isolation and disappointment, but also hope and positivity; by the end there was a coming together as the characters were united by sharing the very things that left them feeling alone in the first place.
I must declare a bias: Alex Cosgriff is my son. I’ve seen him in almost everything he has appeared in and I have watched him grow as an actor and performer, so I feel qualified to say that he gave a subtle and nuanced performance as Henry, a teenage schoolboy. His solo Sad To Me was poignant and moved more than one person to tears.
Tom Williams’ solo I Choose Silence was simply beautiful; but mention must also be made of his ability to sit still and unnoticed for almost ninety minutes: not many actors would be satisfied with that but it definitely added to the show’s quality, for it was a physical manifestation of the underlying theme of those we ignore as a society. I felt the song would have been more effective if it had occurred earlier on, but that’s a minor quibble.
In stark contrast came Billy (Will) Taylor’s vigorous characterisation of Trefor the Station Master. He was hilarious whether moving or still, and often commanded our attention even when he had no lines. He built a great rapport with the audience and is definitely one to watch.
The real stars of the show, however, were the fabulous score by Matthew Malone and lyrics by Joe Bunce, both of which showed a maturity beyond their authors’ years. I pay Bunce & Malone the highest compliment I can: I was still thinking about the characters and singing snatches from the show twenty-four hours later.
I strongly recommend that you try to catch this while you can, tonight or tomorrow at the Pleasance, Islington. No matter how you voted yesterday, this is one departure that will leave you feeling good.