Directed by Scott Andrews
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Author: Don McKay
The smartly turned out Front of House team, lead by Chris Clifton, gave us a warm welcome to this production of “Rent”. The open stage housed a static set on two levels that was beautifully lit and very atmospheric. The lighting by Chris Glenton and Matthew Watson, was beautifully designed and required complex operation with many changes of specials and washes‘. The sound by Scott Andrews was perfectly balanced, enabling the vocals to be heard clearly over Rowan Marshall’s excellent band, in this high energy rock opera. The set by John Shadlock, was of a simple scaffold construction with minimal props by Keith Jenkinson, and had some great effects like the church steeple that doubled as a makeshift Christmas Tree, and the table that was ingeniously used as a chained front door. The contemporary costumes by RaeAnna Hammerbacker were put together well, however the bag lady could have done with being a bit less smart looking, as the only clue to her character were the bags. This was the first time that I have seen “Rent”, and so didn’t quite know what to expect, but I have to say that it turned out to be a wonderful experience. It is the story of a group of friends in New York at the end of the last millennium, over the period of 1 year. We are narrated through their lives, loves and losses by an aspiring film maker named Mark, played by Sean Webb, who gave a good solid performance. His flatmate and best friend Roger, was played with great emotion by Max Caldicott. Kevin Shepherd played their rent demanding landlord Ben. Kevin gave a perfectly understated performance, making the character very real. Wolfie Hammerbacker as Tom Collins, was totally believable in his role as the partner of the larger than life transvestite Angel, played magnificently by Joshua Sinclair, who strutted and preened brilliantly . RaeAnna Hammerbacker as the formidable Joanne, portrayed a character that was both self confident in the business world and insecure when it comes to matters of the heart. Her lesbian lover Maureen, played by Emma Evans, displayed a considerable vocal range and was outstanding in the solo spot “ Maureen’s performance”, as was Sarah Milthorp as drug addict Mimi, who was worthy of any professional stage, and was a joy to behold in every scene. The chorus were excellent throughout, tackling some very complicated vocal arrangements and harmonies, expertly constructed by Musical Director Rowan Marshall. This was a remarkable all round production, Scott Andrews direction was faultless, with marvellous characterisations, and with a perfect balance of humour and deep emotional devastation that, considering the content, still managed to provide an uplifting finale. I got the feeling as I watched this production that it was a true labour of love by the director, he asked a great deal from his excellent cast, and they all delivered in spades. Well done VAMPS, and thank you for a wonderful evenings entertainment.