'Fantastic energy' ★★★★- MTB's RENT @ The Winston Theatre

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Grace Kendrick reviews MTB's production of RENT, a rock musical set in late 80's New York, which follows a group of young artists living with the effects of AIDS, poverty and the drug crisis.

Sell out performance of Rent brings moments of tears, comedy and a lasting reminder of modern society’s progress on some highly relevant issues.

a twisting tale of love, loss, AIDS and the impact of each individual’s actions

MTB have another sell out performance for their latest musical production of Rent, running at the Winston Theatre from 14-17th February. The performance couldn’t be more relevant to the timing of Sexual Health Week 2018.

The story tells the life of a group of bohemians living the modern day struggles of 1990’s East Village New York. Across the year, we follow the story through the lens of Mark’s film, in which he records the rollercoaster turn of events that highlight some of the key issues society is still overcoming today. This includes the twisting tale of love, loss, AIDS and the impact of each individual’s actions on the rest of the group.

Matt Boyle...invokes a powerful emotional response of audience members that are following his story.

Whilst society has come a long way to help those dealing with HIV symptoms and treatment, this story highlights the progress that has been made for many young people, particularly those living in poverty. Spoiler Alert – If you’re a sensitive soul you may want to bring your tissues!

Briefly covering the main cast members, we follow the interaction of the filmmaker Mark Cohen; his former girlfriend Mareen Johnson and her lesbian lover Joanne Jefferson; Mark’s roommate and musician Roger Davis and his drug addicted girlfriend Mimi Marquez; former roommate Tom Collins and his drag queen lover Angel.

Each character contributes their own story to the plot, with a central shared focus on the impact of poverty and AIDS. Audience members are instantly drawn to the excellent characterisation of friendship between the main cast members, which is expressed throughout the narrative of this performance.

Yasemin Gezer ... delivers a sensitivity in the characterisation of her overwhelming drug addiction.

There is a tricky balance for cast members to convey the growing tension of the relevant issues in the storyline to the audience, without going over the top with dramatization. This is effectively dealt with through the sensitivity of the performers, but more could be done during key scenes to grip audiences even more. This could be achieved with more focus on scenes that have less cast members on stage.

The choreography... provides good energy to the main musical numbers.

Excellent vocals are seen from Marisa Lopes, playing Joanna, who entertains audiences with fantastic expression in her performance. She is also accompanied by strong vocals from chorus members who support her with fantastic energy. Other vocals are slightly weaker, but this improved as the performance continued.

Matt Boyle, playing Angel contributes a great deal of character to the stage and invokes a powerful emotional response of audience members that are following his story. Yasemin Gezer also provides fantastic characterisation in her role as Mimi, which is both entertaining during her first number of ‘light my candle’ and later delivers a sensitivity in the characterisation of her overwhelming drug addiction.

The star couple is played well by Matt Boyle and Seun Oyeleye who does an excellent job of conveying their powerful relationship. The main cast is very well supported by a lively and energetic chorus, this is a key part to helping keep the performance engaging and helps to give structure to the overall storyline. It is also great to see chorus members getting the chance to provide good performances of minor character roles.

The choreography is well considered considering the limited stage space, and provides good energy to the main musical numbers. The use of the set is also innovative and works really well with the separation of monologues from the side of the stage. In addition, commendation should be given to a timely accompaniment by the band and lighting team, with smooth transitions between scenes.

Overall, this is a lively production of RENT produced with due sensitivity to the very relevant issues to modern society. An enjoyable watch for audience members thanks to some excellent vocals, a strong chorus and fantastic characterisation of the main cast members.

★★★★

RENT will be running from the 14th – 17th February in the Winston Theatre.
Tickets available here. MTB are also on Facebook.


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