This Little Life of Mine***+ (Park Theatre)

Posted: October 6, 2016 in Theatre

this-little-life-of-mine-park-theatre-l-r-kate-batter-izzy-_-james-robinson-jonesy-photo-by-charlie-round-turner-e1475715897910This review was originally written for The Reviews Hub:

Who says that musicals need to have fantastical themes and exotic settings? Michael Yale seems to say not and goes out to prove it with a chamber musical about little lives in mundane places and, more specifically, about infertility.

Even the name Jonesy declares ordinariness, as the character of that name moves into a tiny new London flat somewhere in Zone 2 with his partner Izzy. He likes occasional drinks with his mates, her favourite film is Breakfast at Tiffany’s (“the one about the skinny prozzy with a wet pussy” Jonesy reminds her). They struggle to make ends meet, but have a fun lifestyle, even dabbling in swinging with a friendly couple. But then the urge to expand the family grows stronger and Jonesy’s sperm count lets them down. They try and they try but their failure to conceive drives a wedge between them.

Act I of the show jumps around far too much before settling on a steady course. James Robinson and Kate Batter are both charming in the central roles, but much of their spoken dialogue feels badly stilted, and only the injection of some sharp jokes makes it bearable. However, when it comes to providing the lyrics to fit with the moods and melodies of Charlie Round-Turner’s lovely music, Yale’s writing comes alive to make this a musical that really is all about the songs.

All the minor characters are played by just two actors, both making enormous contributions – Caroline Deverill’s guises include an office slut and Jonesy’s controlling mother; Greg Barnett moves from a singing barista to a gynaecologist among others. They are also the couple in the swinger scene, joining Robinson and Batter in some eye-poppingly raunchy choreography. Comedy numbers, such as this and the lively Just One More, when Jonesy stays on too late in the pub, lighten the mood, but most of the songs are haunting romantic or sorrowful solos and duets.

Robinson accompanies himself on guitar for the simple love ballad Bella Rose and Batter, whose voice has a beautiful clarity, sits alone at a bar table like a torch singer to perform Drinking Alone. Most memorably, as the couple’s relationship hits the rocks, Jonesy leaves the flat, but remains visible through a screen and he duets with Izzy, both singing “…sometimes I confess that I wish I loved you less…” each unheard by the other. This heartbreaking scene sums up in seconds the devastating effect when channels of communication between a devoted couple become lost and it typifies how song is used in the show to express human emotions in ways that spoken words fail to do.

In turns, rude, romantic and real, this is undoubtedly a show that needs more work, but it has loads of potential to grow. The publicity invites us to “be at the birth of a brand new British musical” and it is an invitation well worth accepting.

Performance date: 5 October 2016

Photo: Charlie Round-Turner


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.