As the penultimate instalment of an excitingly diverse inaugural season this new venue, right next to the Menier Chocolate Factory, presents a musical. It’s a new, British, piece – always welcome – with strong song writing from Tim Prottey-Jones and Tori Allen-Martin that makes it easy to recommend the show to anyone interested in musical theatre.
Allen-Martin, brimming with talent, also performs as Lauren, caught in a love triangle with two old friends, former members of a promising rock band. Jake is Lauren’s current boyfriend, a role Jos Slovick expertly creates an interesting sinister edge for, while former partner Michael is suffering from depression following a traumatic event. Michael is played by David Leopold, with the character’s selective mutism leading to an admirably intense performance. He is joined in a series of flashbacks by his younger self, a role tackled impressively by Edd Campbell Bird.
Sarah Henley’s book reveals the back story too slowly, adding a sense of mystery that isn’t needed as the story contains plenty of drama. The roles of Michael’s uncle and mother (strong performances by Mark Hawkins and Helen Hobson) could easily bear elaboration. Director Jamie Jackson is keen to impress a mark on the show. Unfortunately, the super-stylish set from Sarah Beaton, a moated island for Michael that the cast paddle around in and an overused swing, along with some modish choreography, also repetitive, prove distracting.
A lot of the production is simply trying too hard – unnecessary when the basics are all present and correct. Muted has some important contemporary concerns and fresh dialogue that Jackson secures strong performances with. The neat idea of having a central character that doesn’t speak or sing until late in the show is nicely handled and twists in the story are engaging. Most importantly, the songs are good; a forceful collection of mature numbers that come together satisfactorily in an increasingly powerful second half. Muted is a musical whose praise should be loudly shouted.
Until 7 January 2017
Photos by Savannah Photographic