Rooms at the Finborough Theatre
Having premiered Off Broadway in 2005, Rooms is finally making its way across the pond and onto a European stage for the first time. Somewhat aptly for a two-person musical, it’s currently premiering here in London at the Finborough Theatre – possibly the very ultimate in terms of small fringe theatre spaces.
From the outset, it’s clear that the subject matter and music are hardly breaking any new ground. In fact they’re both downright clichéd, but they never come across as contrived. Our two lead (and sole) characters – the colourfully named Ian and Monica, two friends from Glasgow – take us on a musical journey from the bedrooms of their parents’ houses in Glasgow to the glamour of New York. Seemingly arbitrarily set during the late 70s punk explosion, the characters do indeed travel to punk London and ultimately the Mecca-like (at least in this tale) CBGB. Yet the story hardly matters. As long as the pace is maintained, the simplistic tale of love and its meandering songs don’t allow us the chance to lose interest.
The content, music and performance are much more High School Musical than Quadrophenia, however this isn’t to the play’s detriment. The cast and band all play to their strengths, delivering hookless song after song, constantly hitting the right timbre and staying in tune, and never aiming for much more. Monica (Cassidy Jonson) plays her part with a relentless gusto and attitude, in-your-face to an almost intolerable degree, while Ian (Alexis Gerred) gives a far more dynamic performance (albeit somewhat more affectedly than his stage partner).
Seeing two performers backed by a four-piece rock band performing an 80-minute musical in such an intimate space certainly benefits the piece, and this is what saved the show from being a tacky disaster: performed in a larger venue, Rooms would lose this essential charm. While it’s tough to know quite what the performance intended for us – it lacked enough irony to be a comedy, and yet was too funny to be a pop musical – it’s undeniable that the two unremittingly intimate performances from the leads are what save the play from its more “Disneyfied” elements. While the writers should perhaps be ashamed, the performers can be proud of their wholly entertaining efforts.
Rooms: A Rock Romance is at the Finborough Theatre until 18th May 2013. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.