One-man-musicals don’t get much better than Stay Awake, Jake
“As the sun comes up, I should be there”
There’s something a little perversely amusing about the fact that mere hours after I caught the matinee of Stay Awake, Jake, mounted digitally here at Southwark Playhouse, I was myself hurtling north out of London on the same motorway. In my case, I was outrunning the imposition of Tier 4 measures to get my family Christmas; for Jake, it’s something else altogether.
Tim Gilvin’s one-act, one-performer show is simplicity itself. 70 minutes of sung-through musical theatre, stuck in a car as Jake races from London to Carlisle. His journey is triggered by a phone call with his girlfriend but in order to save his relationship, Jake needs to do some self-reflecting and where better than a long stretch of the M6?
The push for an emotional breakthrough is actually elegantly done, particularly as characterised in Ahmed Hamad’s performance. He’s no perfect gent, indeed he’s really quite fucked up here, but Gilvin allows him a believable throughline to a point of, if not full-on redemption, to at least recognising that redemption is possible, of the steps he still needs to take once the drive is done.
Director Grace Taylor and Musical Director Tamara Saringer exploit the pared-back aesthetic perfectly, allowing Marta Tobar’s beautiful cello-playing to coil around the score, acting as ballast for the moments of frailty and uncertainty that Jake feels in confronting some of the more uncomfortable truths about taking responsiblity and what that actually means.