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BWW Review: MARRY ME A LITTLE, Streaming Online, The Barn Theatre

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Celinde Schoenmaker and Rob Houchen star in the Sondheim revue

BWW Review: MARRY ME A LITTLE, Streaming Online, The Barn Theatre

BWW Review: MARRY ME A LITTLE, Streaming Online, The Barn TheatreMarry Me A Little, starring Celinde Schoenmaker and Rob Houchen, opened at The Barn Theatre in Cirencester on 16 October during that golden window of opportunity for socially-distanced indoor theatre performances. Unfortunately, their run was cut short by a few days due to a second national lockdown in England.

Fortunately, a filmed version has now been released online so that those of us who could not catch the run - due to travel bans or otherwise - can enjoy this two-hander revue of Stephen Sondheim songs cut from his better-known or, at the time, future shows.

Marry Me A Little was originally conceived by Craig Lucas and Norman René. Their revue was formed around a narrative of two lonely singletons in New York. The pair never meet but feel a connection of sorts and go through a spectrum of emotions during the course of an evening alone in their respective apartments.

The show opened off-Broadway in 1982 and has enjoyed various revivals and reinventions ever since. This particular production, directed by Kirk Jameson, sets the one-act show in the present day, through the lens of our digital age. It alternatively suggests that the pair are going through a break up rather than strangers experiencing loneliness together.

Aside from being an obviously practical piece to perform in COVID-times, with such a small cast, it is also a poignant one to watch as we process a year where we have experienced a lot more time to ourselves.

With no dialogue between songs, the online communication between the pair is projected behind the actors and provides enough context for this revamped storyline - with projection design by Benjamin Collins. The text message exchanges flesh out the story and highlight the cruelty our social media feeds can sometimes inflict on us after a relationship ends.

Schoenmaker and Houchen are fine casting choices for this piece. Their strong vocal ability delivers the nuances of Sondheim's music and lyrics with dynamism and delicacy as required.

If I had to pick two highlights, both involving numbers from various drafts of Company, Schoenmaker gives a wonderfully determined performance of the title song - she's ready! - while Houchen gives a biting and bitter performance of "Happily Ever After", a cynical number that was a predecessor to "Being Alive".

An interview with the duo in the programme reveals the song list is an abridged blend of previous productions to comply with safety guidelines. That said, in the space of just under an hour, Schoenmaker and Houchen take the audience on an emotional rollercoaster ride.

The duo are simply accompanied by a piano, adding to the intimacy of the piece, performed with sensitivity and style by musical director, Arlene McNaught. Sam Rowcliffe-Tanner's lighting design creates a warm cosy feel, perfect for a "night in" but illuminates the stage in the more climactic moments of the piece.

Gregor Donnelly's costume design firmly roots the show in the present and his clever split-sofa apartment set design clearly defines two separate living spaces but seamlessly allows the performers to interact when the score and story require them to do so.

Sam Spacer-Lane's musical staging makes the most of the space when energy and movement are demanded of a song but there are also beautiful moments of contrast in some numbers where the performers never leave their corner of the couch.

Revues come in many forms. Some with too much dialogue between songs, others not enough. This version of Marry Me A Little manages to put some flesh on the bones of an otherwise slightly strange romantic narrative and provides a heart-breaking hour of emotional escapism.

Marry Me A Little available online in the UK until 22 November

Photography credit: Eve Dunlop

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From This Author Fiona Scott