BWW Review: ORDINARY DAYS, Drayton Arms Theatre
En route to the theatre, I walked past a mansion block 100 yards away and was thrown back 35 years to my first journey in a London cab. Rain streaked down the window, the streetlights smearing into each other, but I had eyes only for my not-quite-yet girlfriend whose flat was our destination. The working class provincial kid was finding his feet with the home counties middle class privately educated woman. This, of course, was just one ordinary tale of so many in the big, anonymous, melting pots of Western cities. In New York you can be a new man.
Ordinary Days tracks two odd couples finding their place in the Big Apple. Claire and Jason have sorta (but oughtn'ta) moved in together and are discovering that it's tough to find the space - physical, emotional, psychological - in the boxy apartments of Manhattan. Deb has drifted into Grad School, her nascent dissertation on Virginia Woolf betraying her ambivalence towards her subject, and herself. Warren is equally unsure of his story - cat-sitting for an artist and handing out zeitgeisty flyers on the street; but definitely not the next Basquiat.
As the relationship of Claire and Jason - so suited on the surface - collapses under oh so familiar pressure, Deb and Warren develop one of those awkward partnerships that just works, despite everything. It's both unbelievable and makes perfect sense - that's what happens in The City.
Okay, it's a slight premise and it's all a bit familiar, but Adam Gwon's pleasant songs drive a charming narrative, beautifully delivered by a marvellous cast. Neil Cameron invests Warren with the sweetest of vulnerability, a gay guy who just wants to be needed as much as loved. Nora Perone gives Deb a bolshie brittleness that rings so true and you can't but crack a smile when a hand is proffered and (eventually) taken. Taite-Elliot Drew and Natalie Day have a more conventional couple to portray, but do so with great sensitivity, Drew a bit stupid, but trying hard and Day slowly becoming aware that he is not what she wants.
The singing is top drawer from all four, sung up close and unamplified with just Rowland Brache's keyboard for a score that is perfectly acceptable, but not quite packed with showstoppers. But it's all much better than is the case at most venues, where overly loud music can drown out vocals and swamp the nuance musical theatre needs to tell its stories.
Ordinary Days is no Les Mis - it's not meant to be - but it's a lovely boutique musical that presses plenty of emotional buttons and delivers with wit and wisdom. It might not change your life, but it'll reflect it and that ain't a bad result.
Photo Natalie Lomako