(seen at the afternoon performance on 20th February 2019). Another
quirky but meaningful musical for the Phoenix Theatre. Ordinary lives collide
thanks to extraordinary inhumanity. This show very much re-balances that, in a
heart-warmingly downbeat fashion.
The townsfolk of Gander, numbering around 7000, provide instant and
comprehensive aid for 7000 people stranded for almost a week in their remote
area of the world. From the start of just another day, the story winds through
initial news heard both on the ground and in the air, to the late night
dispersal of travellers among various hastily commandeered shelters. From there,
a beautifully realised "breakthrough in communications" leads to the tale of the
rest of the week, though the eyes of those on both sides, residents and
Major characters simply are. Nothing is forced, it's all just folk telling
their stories and becoming one with the audience. A cast of 12 play multiple
roles, to impressive effect. Particular stand-outs are Beulah (Jenna Boyd),
Clive Carter (Claude), Helen Hobson (Diane) and Nathanael Campbell (Bob). To
explain more about each of them would spoil totally the encounters. Suffice to
say that each makes a huge impact - and the entire cast deserve praise for both
characterisation and restrained energy that keeps the whole thing credible.
There's some strong moments in the score - "Me and the Sky" a highlight, and
Kelly Devine's staging is a mixture of theatrical tricks and rough edges
matching the improvisation the show tries to capture. Christopher Ashley's
direction allows each cast member to dig deep into not only their own character
and relationships, but also into how they relate to other characters and the
situation itself. Indeed, the monkey found itself wondering at times how it
would have reacted and fitted into events.
A little slow to truly engage perhaps, but once the scene is set and events
move forward, the days fly and the audience leaves feeling that they too were
once in a small place for a life-changing time. Touching and truthful, this show
5 stars, standing ovation.