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Scottish Storytelling Centre
Review by Thom Dibdin
Witty and poignant, Green Room’s sparse Scottish premiere of Ordinary Days marks a strong return to the Scottish Storytelling Centre for this young musical theatre company.
The show, by Adam Gwon, is a nicely poised little chamber musical with straightforward but not hugely memorable tunes and quirky lyrics that are sung-through by just four characters. Set in contemporary New York, Gwon’s book is – satisfyingly – much more intelligent than it initially appears as it builds to the eventual and rather magical interaction of two couples.
Twenty-something Warren, played with just the slightest edge of creepiness by Darren Niven, is one of the ordinary people who New York ignores. But behind the boring existence he’s the kind of guy who revels in found memories – picking up lost photos and documents to which he ascribes romanticised back-stories.
Currently employed as the cat-sitter for a graffiti artist who is incarcerated for his art, Warren’s life mission is to spread his benefactor’s not-quite-pithy aphorisms through the streets on his own carefully created flyers. When he finds a hand-written notebook, he sees its return as a way to make a fairy tale come to life.
Unfortunately for his dreams it belongs to Deb. To call her driven would be something of an understatement. Particularly in the incarnation created by Sarah Haddath, who is given to public squeals of exasperation and the uncompromising abuse of any barista who might make the slightest deviation from her coffee order.
More to the point, the book contains the notes for her graduate thesis – the first draft of which is due that very afternoon.
The convolutions of their eventual meeting at the Met are deliciously revealed. And if the characters are a little precious, there is a self-mocking irony about them which both performers are able to bring right out.
The other pair – and a couple in the usual sense of the term – are thirty-somethings Claire and Jason. He’s all made up because he’s moving in to her flat. And she’s not a little concerned that she will have to get rid of all her mementoes.
Michael Davies’s Jason is gung-ho and not always as understanding as he thinks he is. Caroline Hood finds the apparently neurotic – but in reality frightened and defensive – side to Claire. Their own path towards crisis is the truly ordinary part of the piece, at times bordering on the mundane, but still providing some breadth, particularly as Claire tries to justify throwing away those things which give her past a reality.
Director Michael Richardson has brought out a set of subtle and well-nuanced performances. Hugely simple staging, with silhouette backdrop and three wheeled boxes providing the set, allow the piece to flow evenly through. And if Gwon’s characters are not written large, then these four make them so.
Musical director Neil Metcalfe keeps things absolutely simple, with a basic piano accompaniment that allows the excellently articulated words to shine. The only slight disappointment is that not all the performers are able to give the higher notes all the depth and volume they deserve.
Otherwise this is an intelligent production that marks Green Room – on only their second outing – as a company quite capable of taking the most of the most slender of basic materials and turning them into works of genuine quality.
Run ends Saturday 23 June 2012
Running time 1 hour 30 mins.
Scottish Storytelling Centre, 7.30pm.
Green Room website