After a long year of watching theatre online, and as venues are planning to reopen, this new musical film illustrates how much has been learned about presenting work in a different format. A collaborative effort from Metta Theatre, Royal & Derngate Northampton, Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch and the Stephen Joseph Theatre, the show fits online perfectly.
Although Cells is now available to watch in one go, the show was released daily and designed with that in mind. Written and directed by P Burton-Morgan, the five-minute films amount to a song cycle of strong numbers that provide a daily hit for music lovers. The score is adventurous, with lyrics that have a natural feel. The production quite literally made my day… every day!
The simple story of family relationships has plenty of original touches – a little bit of science goes a long way – with a young student meeting a lab technician who turns out to be his father. These are great roles for Lem Knights and Clive Rowe, who both sound fantastic. Along with Burton-Morgan, the performers deserve acclaim for taking us so close to complex characters so quickly.
If elements of the scenario don’t quite convince (the pair knowing each other online as well as having a chance encounter is confusing), the emotions explored are always sincere. Getting to know their insecurities and fears, as well as hopes, is thoroughly convincing. There is a realism to Burton-Morgan’s lyrics that further enforces the show’s distinct tone.
Although the scenes are small in scope, there’s no sense of them being limited. Each of the films has a sharp focus and is appropriately modest in ambitions so that the project as a whole works superbly.