Review: Pieces of String, Mercury Theatre online

Finally, a show I haven’t seen before being streamed! And what a beauty Pieces of String turned out to be. 

“Sometimes it’s good to remember
‘Sometimes it’s good to forget'”

For all that I’ve been recommending many of online theatre options to all and sundry, I haven’t actually partaken in many of them myself. In many cases, it has been shows I’ve seen before that are being featured and there’s an element of not wanting to sully their memory there; there’s also a sadness that theatregoing as we knew it might not be returning for the longest time.

But then Colchester’s Mercury Theatre came up with the VE Day treat I was actually waiting for, a showing of their 2018 hit musical Pieces of String. I had a ticket for this, and a train ticket come to think of it but for the life of me, I can’ remember why I ended up not making it, so this rare opportunity to finally see a show that I hadn’t seen and wanted to see was much welcomed.

And most pleasingly of all, it was pretty darn fantastic. In some ways it couldn’t disappoint as it features so many of my favourite things – dual timestreams, queer romances, wartime stories that aren’t set on the battlefield, Andy Coxon’s voice – and Gus Gowland’s book, music and lyrics combines them all into a bittersweetly beautiful chamber musical, expertly directed by Ryan McBryde. 

As a family buries a grandfather and comes together to empty his house, the effects of an overbearing secret are played out across three generations. Switching between the Second World War and the modern day, it’s an aching study of the struggles so many face in being themselves. It’s also niftily tuneful, the Act 1 closer in particular is a fantastically rousing melody and the benefits of watching online meant I could skip back and listen to it again right there and then. I’d recommend it heartily but it was only airing for VE Day – it will be one to look out for in the future though, when it undoubtedly comes back.

Photos: Robert Workman

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