Date 8th September 2016
Society In Your Face Theatre (Seaham)
Venue Seaham Town Hall
Type of Production Musical
Director Helen Abraham
Musical Director Tim Jasper
Choreographer Helen Abraham / Lisa Grey


Author: Peter Oliver

RENT is a rock musical loosely based on Puccini’s opera La Bohem, it is set in New York and follows the life of a group impoverished artists struggling to survive under the shadows of drug abuse, sexuality issues, HIV and AIDS. Congratulations in the first instance to Director Helen Abraham whose skill and tenacity enabled her to stretch and develop the skills of the casts acting capabilities as they portray characters with their diverse lifestyles. Helen certainly ensured that the principals delivered incredible performances backed up by a terrific ensemble. Tim Jasper and his musicians gave just the right level of accompaniment and never overshadowed the musical numbers which is essential in this musical as the story is told through the songs. Visually the band set at the back of the stage gave this musical for me the right feel as was the lighting which created the different emotions and scenes in the story. The set was authentic to the show, basic in its design which enabled the audience to focus on the dialogue and music as were the props which were simple but effective. The costumes were well thought out, loved Angel's Santa outfit. Choreography was creative from the Director and I particularly enjoyed the choreographed movement to “Contact” by Lisa Grey which was very emotional with not a dry eye in the audience.

'Mark Cohen' the narrator and aspiring filmmaker, was wonderfully played by Michael Brabbs, his endearing portrayal along with sublime acting was key to this show his vocals were fantastic and delivered his numbers with great passion. His friend and room mate 'Roger' played by Valor Kevin St Clair Bell imperatively demonstrated both his singing and acting talents as the somewhat tortured rock musician trying to write that one great song, I loved “One Song Glory” which showed both softness and angst in the delivery and also “Your Eyes” showing disappointment and hope. 'Mimi' the exotic dancer and lover of Roger played by Kelsey Douglas was marvellous as the junkie,  trying to make every minute count, she oozed sex appeal, excellent dancing skills and an incredible singing voice Kelsey is cable of singing not only with great fervour and passion but also with tender sensitivity I loved her duet with Roger “Without You” it certainly pulled at your heart strings and I loved “Light my Candle” beautifully delivered. Nathan Vose gave a strong and commanding performance as 'Benny', the landlord trying to evict the homeless group again strong vocals and stage presence. A stand out performance from Stephanie Peacock who gave a very forceful performance as protest artist 'Maureen', great delivery of her character I particularly enjoyed her solo “over the moon” which brought a new emotion to the show as did her duet “Take me or Leave me” with long suffering girlfriend and Lawyer 'Joanne' played by Sarah Ketchin, again fabulous singing voice and I particularly enjoyed her solo “We’re Okay” and her duet “Tango Maureen” performed with Mark - great performances. For me David Jackson as 'Tom Collins' and Michael Coulson as 'Angel Dumott Schunard' were fundamental to this story, finding love against all odds both performers gave their all in this production. David gave a subtle provoking performance his love and friendship for Angel was beautifully acted and very sincere and the moments of tenderness, grief and passion were all delivered to perfection well done David, vocally I enjoyed the duet “I’ll Cover you” which was truly moving. Michael gave an outstanding performance both in his acting and vocally as Angel who during the show succumbs to AIDS, he had the audience’s attention from his first appearance on stage, great characterisation and portrayed the uniqueness of Angel with sincerity and pride which is a real rarity, and when the final scene was delivered of Angel’s death Michael was outstanding this was very moving and well directed and there wasn’t a dry eye in the audience when the seven principals sang “Goodbye Love” well done Michael this was the perfect character for you.

There were a number of cameo roles and this energetic cast threw themselves into their characters with gusto performed by Holly Davison, Catherine Hillam, Chelses Tune, Jon Isbell, Jonathan Ryan, Amy Darton, Ryan Jacques Alexandra Cox, Rebecca Smith, Sarah Booth and Mhairi Jane not only did they support the principals but delivered some fantastic chorus numbers especially “Rent”, “Will I” and “Seasons of Love”.

This was an exceptional show which was appreciated by the standing ovation from the audience. Well done to everyone involved and thank you for a very entertaining evening.