BWW Review: THIS LITTLE LIFE OF MINE, Park Theatre, 5 October 2016
Izzy and Jonesy are thirtysomethings with decent jobs, a tiny rented flat and a hankering to start a family. But when things don't quite work out as they might, their sex lives become a matter of scientific charts and windows of opportunity and their relationship changes, perhaps forever.
What an absolute delight to see a new musical set in present day London, stocked with the kind of characters one might meet every day (that's if you have a job in video editing or in the City, of course). But sniping about the Friends-like lifestyles isn't fair because Michael Yale's book is very strong, with more than a touch of Carla Lane's bittersweet takes on how life can jump up and bite you on the bum just when you think that it's going your way.
Complementing a very fine script, Charlie Round-Turner's songs comprise bluesy laments, sweet guitar-based ballads reminiscent of early Paul McCartney, and traditional musical numbers that capture a wit and energy that reminded me of Lionel Bart's work. This is high praise indeed, but the material really is that good.
Naturally, even such strong foundations need performances to match, and the four actors do full credit to the writers. Kate Batter's Izzy anchors the show, a woman who knows what she wants, but just can't get it, loving her partner (James Robinson's gentle Jonesy) but maybe not in quite the right way required to weather the emotional storms that come their way. Both sing very well indeed, the intimacy of the venue suiting voices that pack plenty of emotional punch. (As an aside, with songs as impressive as this, it was a shame that the programme did not include a song list).
The two principals get tremendous support from Greg Barnett and Caroline Deverill, who play a host of friends, colleagues, bar staff etc. with real verve, adding plenty of comedy into the mix. Barnett's superbly observed "The Barista's Song" is what got me thinking of Bart, and Deverill's Tindering Aussie woman of the world is a wonderful creation who could easily carry a show herself.
If the ending is ambivalent - but I've read my Freud and I know that dreams are wishes, so I've got my interpretation sorted - rare is the show that leaves you wanting more from its characters. I definitely wanted more from Izzy and Jonesy and their friends, and I suspect I might in 2017, as this show is as likely to get a transfer to a larger venue as any I've seen in the past couple of years. After a run of so-so new musicals in London, this is a solid five-star show!