Review: 4**** 27 – @cockpittheatre @27_ldn @arlenephillips

#Tweetingit –4*A talented cast guide us through the perils of rock stardom and explain exactly why 27 is a number best avoided!

Any rock fan will immediately recognise the significance of ‘27’, that terrifying, almost mythical watershed in the life of a recording artist.  Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Janice Joplin, Curt Cobain and Amy 27-posterWinehouse never made it past 27; a sorry tale of wasted talent and a life ending before it’s really begun. The Cockpit in Marylebone plays host to this slick production co-directed by Arlene Philips and starring Greg Oliver.  A tight set with a stunning strobe lighting system sets the audience so close to the action you can see beads of sweat bouncing off the players.

The narrative treads familiar territory as it traces the rise and fall of Orpheus, a wannabe rock star who yearns for the big time.  Having found the pedestal he stays there with a cocktail of drugs and booze, alienating his bandmates and girlfriend Amy in process.

Record label boss Hades keeps the cash registers keep ticking over with an endless stream of recording and touring. The end game isn’t startling or unexpected, but remains a neat summation of how performers can exude power on stage, but are painfully brittle when the spotlights are switched off.

The storyline is a tad predictable drawing on Faust, fertile territory for any rock musical, remember tonight’s the night? (no perhaps best not). At one point, Hades asks Orpheus how badly he wants it? The scene is reminiscent of Simon Cowell taunting some poor, gullible begger on X-Factor.  So the analogy makes a relevant point, as a budding artist will sacrifice a big part of themselves for a shot at fame. 27-ryan-molloy-hades-and-company-photo-nick-rossThe references to Greek mythology are however slightly over the top; Orpheus, legendary musician and poet leading the Argonauts, his band of heroes with Hades, god of the underworld as his record label boss; I just didn’t buy it.  Three mysterious figures clad in black, known only as Fate, strutted across the stage acting as narrators to a story that only really hung together in the first act. Ms M was the seductive girl Friday, drawing Orpheus into the clutches of Hades and his team of managers, stylists and promoters.

Act II begins with Orpheus seemingly waking from an overdose and entering a twilight zone as he hovers between life and death. Hades re-enters (yes of course, god of the underworld!) and offers him the chance to reunite with Amy if he successfully completes a series of tasks.  This really takes the story off into a blind alley without any real purpose, and made me wonder why it didn’t end at Act I.  The songs are strident but sounded dated with a selection of rock ballads that wouldn’t have been out of place on a Meatloaf album; not necessarily a bad thing but I was hoping for something more innovative. The cast were outstanding in a stifling atmosphere which grew increasingly humid as the evening wore on. Greg Oliver as Orpheus and Cassie Compton as Amy sang beautifully; Ryan Malloy revelled in the role of Hades as did Lucy Martin as Ms M.

The staging was excellent but felt some substance was lost in the pursuit of style.  It makes some valid observations about the music industry and how talent can be both a blessing and curse in equal measure. But the reliance on Faustian legend and Greek mythology raises the story to fantasy, when it should have stayed with stark reality.

Reviewer: Brian Penn

Music, Book & Lyrics: Sam Cassidy

Music: Matt Willis

Co-Directors:Arlene Philips and Sam Cassidy

Choreographers:Ryan Lee Seager and Lucy Martin

Producer: Shaw Thing Productions & 27 London Limited

Musical Director:Matt Nalton

Box Office: 020 7258 2925

Booking until: 22 October 2016


Published by Playhouse Pickings

Theatre blog run by Rhiannon; a civil servant, D&D player, sci fi fan, immersive theatre lover and gin enthusiast

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