Payback at Riverside Studios
Payback has got the whole lot: a good, original story spiced with funny songs and a fine ensemble cast. Paul Rayfield’s story is based on a very fashionable subject for our times. His musical subtly explores the legitimacy of reality TV shows, while director Simon Greiff does a cunning and exuberant job at exposing viewers to this world and, perhaps unconsciously, involving them in it.
In 1997 a paparazzo manages to sneak pictures of a rock star named Billy Life on a wild night in his Rio de Janeiro hotel room with a young local girl. She is soon deserted by the musician but later gives birth to their child. 19 years later, a Brazilian boy who struggles to make ends meet working in a café with his girlfriend Isabel, dreams of improving their lives. Guillerme sees his chance when he recognises himself in an appeal for Billy’s long lost son, as part of a well-known British TV show about paternity Payback. The programme plans to uncover the dirt in this sordid story of abandonment and help Guillerme get revenge and thus find a brighter future with Isabel. Through inevitable coups de théâtre the story evolves until reaching its dénouement.
The musical has innumerable moments of fun as many lines spur spontaneous, riotous laughter, but also has its share of scenes – mostly expressed through the actors’ singing – which will touch more than a chord. The whole cast give a notable performance but some stars are shinier: Matthew White well portrays the cynical Matt Mathews, Howard Samuels as Billy Life is hilarious and Katie Bernstein not only has a magnificent voice but is also capable to mock a Portuguese-influenced English accent in her role as Isabel.
As Payback is a musical, it is obvious that the songs are at the core of the show. Thankfully, the actors are all also talented singers, however their voices are often smothered by the background music, which is at times too loud. The story is interesting but sadly its predictable ending ruins it. Still, Payback is worth seeing as it will make spectators (at least the smartest ones) reflect upon these times when our privacy has become more and more at risk without anyone fully realising it.
Payback is at Riverside Studios until 30th June 2013. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.