MP Theatricals: Is He Musical? online
Jude Taylor’s Is He Musical? is a heartwarming tale with plenty of potential, but it’s hindered by production technicalities and poor execution. Set in 1930s London, a group of queer friends party beneath the wings of West End glam. What may at first seem like a tale of people finding family amongst the friendships they’ve built loses its spark as the realities of all their predicaments come crashing down. Starring fictional characters based on real-life historical records and accounts, Taylor tries to capture that moment in time in the little over an hour afforded to him.
The themes are typical of any story of self-discovery, but the musical makes a point of emphasising that the truth of who one person wants to be is completely different from who they want to be with. Wilfred (Teddy Hinde) and Laurence (Barry O’Reilly) have a beautiful friendship that suffers because of the divide of their upbringing and financial status, which spurs arguments of desire and dreams versus what can be realistically achieved. While there’s a little bit of truth in both – in being stupidly in love and desperately so, and in ignorance and privilege – their points of view can’t simply be reconciled.
Using multiple settings on one stage is a confusing decision at first as there’s plenty of freedom that can be exercised with an online play. However, there is visual impact in packing away memories when all of these sights and venues are laid out in the dark altogether. That being said, Is He Musical? doesn’t do itself any favours by not making effective use of shadows and lighting. While a variety of colours set the tone and mood, they don’t move with the characters, limiting certain spaces, restricting character movement and dulling the visual experience.
This lacklustre technique is rather obvious in the two-person cast; despite the premise being a showcase of an indulgent party lifestyle, there’s very little energy. While the music fills the stage with a some life, it’s simply not enough. Furthermore, there are technical difficulties strewn across various moments in the stream: the audio cuts out, sometimes the actors’ mics turn off. Text overlays and transitions indicate that there was a bit of time for editing in post-production, so it’s a question that some of these errors remain present in the final product.
Is He Musical? is available online from 19th February until 6th March 2022. For further information or to book visit the production’s website here.