Man & God at Bloomsbury Theatre
UCL’s Man & God is a new musical by composer Jake Dorfman and writer Leo Doulton, with a story by Professor Michael Berkowitz, telling the tale of Mannes and Godowsky, the creators of Kodachrome colour photography. Their history – their talents, their intelligence, their ability to be both excellent musicians and excellent scientists – are poorly represented in history due to the fact that they were Jewish at a time when anti-semitism thrived. The production, therefore, is part of a process of reclaiming history by questioning established truths. The premise is new and exciting, and as such, shows real potential for further development. However, the show is, by their own admittance, still in the development stages and consequently is not without a few teething problems.
The historical musical is a product of extensive academic research on behalf of Berkowitz, which as a result delivers a narrative that is tightly woven with information. He has curated story after story, fact after fact and moved to fill the piece with this information. For this reason, it feels almost as though the production is trying to do too much in too little time – perhaps calling for an expansion of the show beyond the current one-hour running time. The characters – many prolific figures from history – are well-defined, but it is simply impossible to tell every person’s story alongside that of Mannes and Godowsky, which is where the piece falls short. Later drafts could allow for the sharpening of the plot to create a story with an easier flow, without losing the poignancy that the audiences catch glimpses of currently. In addition, a fully-staged production with larger performers is likely to make the narrative clearer to the audience.
Nevertheless, Man & God is already beginning to show some real strengths: the songs are charming and often witty, and really work to move the story forward as opposed to simply filling time; and the characters, as mentioned previously, are well-drawn-out, witty and entertaining to watch. The cast are enthusiastic and excellent at multi-rolling, with Will Sharma giving a standout performance as Godowsky Jr. Above all, the story they seek to tell is an important one, and they give voice to an aspect of history that has been horrendously overlooked – giving the production endless potential moving forward.
Photo: Rachel Berkowitz
Man & God was at Bloomsbury Theatre on 18th May 2019 as part of the Performance Lab season. For further information and future events visit the theatre’s website here.