Stages – a Video Game Musical
Network Theatre is transformed into 8-bit musical heaven with Stages, written and composed by Christian Czornyj, whose distinguished work has spanned cinemas, theatres and concert halls.
Directed and produced by Adam Lenson, this original British musical stars Max Alexander-Taylor as Aiden, a 16-year-old autistic teenager dealt the harrowing diagnosis that his mother Alice (Anna-Jane Casey) has cancer. The family of four, including father Owen (Andrew Langtree) and sister Ellie (Aitch Wylie) – who soon leaves for university – all come to terms with the devastating and life-changing news.
The audience are handed cards, blue on one side, red on the other, used to direct certain parts of the show, much like the way in which video games are controlled. Effective interaction allows viewers to feel they are a part of Aiden’s choices; in one such situation, we are asked if Alice should be medicated at home or in the hospital. The back wall is a striking formation of lit bulbs upon which words and images appear in pixelated form. There are moments when the text displayed on screen is obstructed from view by the cast, but this is something that can be easily adjusted for future productions.
Frequent songs in the show can sometimes feel indulgent, but overall, the piece is well developed and leaves you feeling attached to the characters. In only an hour, the team have constructed an emotionally resonant piece that, though simplistic in essence, achieves a lot more than many new shows at Vault. The fact that this is a video game musical also works as a unique and original concept. All of the actors portray their characters with sensitivity, and their vocalisations are emotionally wrought, evoking different sentiments, backed by Czornyj’s original 8-bit soundtrack.
Stages looks at the family construct, mortality and illness, while also exploring the individual choices we make and how they affect the people we love. Lenson’s production company, Artist Driven New Musicals, helps creatives produce new British work that goes against the grain, evolving along with the social issues in the world today, and Stages brilliantly captures this purpose.
Read more reviews from our Vault Festival 2020 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Vault Festival website here.