Review: Now or Never, Barn Theatre online

There are some good performance in Matthew Harvey’s Now or Never, the latest online show from the Barn Theatre but I’m not sure the song cycle format entirely works

“We could still make it to Paris”

What would you do if there was only a week left to live? That’s the question facing the seven people in Now or Never, a new song cycle written by Matthew Harvey. Continuing the Barn Theatre’s inventive forays online, with a non-stop, one-shot, one-night-only production that is over and done with in a scant 30 minutes.

Get a dog? Connect with loved ones? Go to Paris? Reach out to those long estranged? Harvey’s writing covers the emotional gamut and fits his self-identified brief of writing about responses to global adversity without writing specifically about the pandemic. And with it being just half an hour, it has that feeling of shining bright like a star.

At the same time, it is a feeling that is fleeting. The song cycle structure is always a tricky one to make work and I’m not entirely sure that there’s any real sense of cumulative effect here. And though the technical achievements of the one-shot production taking in so many different areas of the Barn are unquestionable, the approach emphasises this separation.

Performances are good though, under Freddie Tapner’s musical
supervisor and Ryan Carter’s creative direction. The close friendship of Courtney Stapleton and Eloise Davies’ would-be travellers, Harvey’s own love affair with his bike and Irvine Iqbal’s quietly stirring emotion all impress.  Never say never even with Now or Never but I’m just not sure song cycles are the one.

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