The Sandman at Southwark Playhouse
This month Southwark Playhouse is host to The Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation Bridge Company. The training initiative is made up of recent graduates of The BRIT School and The Sandman plays in rep with What Was Left, affording audiences an opportunity to see some future stars of the stage. Loosely based on ETA Hoffmann’s short story, The Sandman centres on Nat (Kira McGovern) as she is stalked by a strange figure from her childhood who has a mysterious connection to her parent’s death. Soon the lines between what is real and what is not begin to blur. There are a number of themes explored here, ranging from fashion to friendship via the supernatural.
Southwark Playhouse are not one to ever present us with a conventional musical, always succeeding in offering something fresh and innovative (see The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) and this thriller is no exception. Live music being performed in a small studio brings with it an intimacy usually reserved for straight plays so it’s a joy to hear the vocal talents of this ensemble whilst being engaged in their impressive characterisation up close, with the confinement of the theatre adding to the atmosphere of the show and its themes.
Ben Pickersgill’s lighting design and Cameron McBain’s sound allow for a smooth and sleek production, the ensemble facilitating this with seamless scene transitions and carefully choreographed movement around the stage. You could argue that at times the pace dips somewhat, however it is soon revitalised and for the most part we are offered an absorbing story that’s well executed.
The ensemble scenes showcase the cast’s vocal skills, comic timing and ability to effortlessly switch between characters and efficiently establish new locations. McGovern as our protagonist delivers a convincingly moving performance and her interactions with Jimmy Chambers, commanding excellent stage presence in his portrayal of the mysterious Olympia, are enthralling. Harrison Fennell and Oliver Cartwright contribute to the comedy and there’s a particularly funny musical number performed by Ruby Dollner as Nat’s friend Caz, but it must be said that each and every member of the cast contributes a great deal, investing their all into the performance.
With social commentary and laugh-out-loud dialogue, this feels fun but also very current. The jump-scares are effective and a sense of foreboding permeates throughout, adding depth whilst allowing the pertinent subject of mental health to be aptly explored. This is not for everyone, however if you enjoy your musicals slightly off-beat, are up for a laugh (and a scare!) and want to see something a little different, get yourself down to Southwark.
Photo: Helen Murray
The Sandman is at Southwark Playhouse from 14th June until 29th June 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.