“Find your favourite fruit”
Given that in ‘Quiet’, Matilda is giving West End audiences lessons on the speed of light, it is brave of another show to enter into the same arena but given the college student age of the protagonists here, one can forgive writer Brian Hill and composer Neil Bartram. Their show The Theory of Relativity, previously seen in Toronto, lies somewhere between chamber musical, song cycle and even revue as eight characters explore the random connections in life (a popular theme this week after buckets) and discover the web of links that result from our actions, even if we’re unaware of how far-reaching they truly are.
The US college bias of the writing skews the experience a little but most of the trials and tribulations experienced here are universally felt – the fluttering nerves of first loves and coming out, dealing with upheaval and change, the pain of loss of love or life. And a large part of the relatability comes from the warmth and openness of the performances here – Jodie Steele’s affecting heartbreak in ‘Me and Ricky’, Ina Marie Smith’s plaintive lament for her mother in ‘Promise Me’, Joshua LeClair’s powerfully felt ‘Footprint’, all supported by some fine work from MD Barney Ashworth from the keyboard.
Christopher Lane’s production keeps a vigour to proceedings, ensuring the key note of each segment powers through, perhaps a little unsubtly in the case of the OCD sufferer but more amusingly with the numbers nerd (the excellent Simon Bailey) and downright hilariously with life choices of ‘Apples and Oranges’ which is pretty much worth the admission fee thanks to LeClair and Curtis Brown. Bartram’s music has the occasional tendency to noodle about when a concise approach would seem more apt and though the way in which physics is used to underscore each scene, it doesn’t always feel like the most natural fit.
Still, it’s a rather appealing piece of musical theatre which has plenty of humour and heart, even if I will still take my physics lessons from Matilda 😉