City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Rent, Churchill Theatre, Review


By Gordon Clayton - Posted on 06 April 2011

4
Show Details
Company: 
Edinburgh Music Theatre Company
Production: 
Michael Richardson (director), Neil Metcalf (Musical Director)
Performers: 
Mike Davies (Mark), Katie Gadsby (Maureen), Louise Black (Mimi), Sarah Haddath (Joanne), Eddie McDowell (Roger), Warrick Hunter (Collins), Jerry Meldrum (Benny), Ciaran O'Neill (Angel)
Running time: 
165mins

‘Rent’ is a musical with a message that not only hits home, it hits a home run. Edinburgh Music Theatre are to be congratulated for forsaking the popular shows on offer elsewhere and trying something different to good effect.

With a cast from various parts of the Commonwealth there is nothing parochial about this company.

Based on Puccini’s La Boheme, Rent is set in the Eighties, East Side of New York where bohemians and down-and-outs live cheek by jowl. The themes are adult, with HIV/ Aids beginning to leave its mark within communities that society would consider to be unconventional in that era.

This production has outstanding performances from all the principals and the ensemble. None more so than Katie Gadsby as the bi-sexual Maureen who produces a spellbinding rendering of ‘Over the Moon’ with some very willing audience participation. Her duet with Sarah Haddath as her lesbian lover ‘Take me or Leave me’ was excellent.

Louise Black as Mimi the drug-taking stripper also shone, with both acting and vocals, particularly in the poignant ‘Without You’. All the principals demonstrated a consistency of first-class singing and the collective ‘Goodbye Love’ was excellent.

The guys were not to be outdone with Mark, the narrator and filmmaker played by Mike Davies seeming so at ease in his role, the powerful but tender Eddie McDowell as Roger. There were also  fine performances from Warrick Hunter as Collins, Ciaran O’Neill as his drag queen partner Angel, and Jerry Meldrum as Landlord Benny.

This is a challenging show not only in its themes, but what it demands of its cast in terms of acting and vocals. The committee and production staff must have had the utmost confidence that this show was within the capacity of the company and on this viewing they were entirely justified.

The set design and use of levels and moveable steps was imaginative as was the use of the hospital screens as a gauze, although what the matrons of Morningside might think is anyone’s guess.

This is a production that makes you sit up straight as the compelling story unfolds. It's melodic, without a number that sticks in your head.

The content is unsuitable for children, but some of the mainly young audience were in tears at the end. Anyone who lived through the 1980s and was affected directly or indirectly by these issues would have been extremely moved.

This production would be fit to grace the stage anywhere. One small point was occasionally faces went into shadow.

Thursday’s house and programme sales will go to Waverley Care who provides support to those affected by HIV/Aids.

Rent runs to Saturday 9th April, 7.30pm. Edinburgh Music Theatre