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Review: After The Turn - The Courtyard Theatre, London

After The Turn

February 2nd 2012: What would you do if you lost your mother at 17? For musician Michael, the only way to handle her voice in his head is to stay silent. 

Three years after the death of Amanda (Ashleigh Gray), Michael's uncle and legal guardian, Will (Stevie Webb), is desperate to find someone to help and finally turns to Michael's ex-girlfriend Lauren (Tori Allen-Martin). Lauren is initially skeptical and doesn't want to drag the past back up, but her boyfriend Wolf (Greg Oliver) is working as a record producer and pushes her to go in the hope of signing Michael.

The part of Michael is split in two, with the silent older Michael (Liam Doyle) sharing the stage with his teenage self (Stephen Rolley) as he battles with silently expressing the emotions he has bottled up for years. The character, disengaging from everything he possibly can, has confined himself to his room and Doyle and Rolley work brilliantly together to create the isolated character.

Rolley, who is still training at Italia Conti, has a wonderfully soft voice that works perfectly for the innocent teenage Michael and his flashback scenes with Amanda were some of the best moments in the show. Gray was fantastic as his extremely loving yet possessive and over-protective mother and, for me, I Will Be There was the most memorable and moving song.

Doyle was equally strong as Michael but was completely wasted as a silent character. His character's chemistry with Lauren was electric and their scenes were completely believable, especially in the first act. Tori Allen-Martin was fabulous as Lauren, with the perfect balance of humour and raw emotion to really bring to life a character who could have become completely alien to the audience. Combined with a great set of lungs to do the songs justice, she has done very well with the character of Lauren and her relationship with Wolf provides some tense moments.

Greg Oliver, who takes on the role of the Wolf, was brilliant to say the least and is another member of the cast still training. His acting was some of the best in the show and he is definitely one to watch out for, however at times his voice sounded like it could be more suited to pop music.

Michael's young uncle Will, played by Stevie Webb, provided some fantastic moments of comedy and light relief and acting really is where Webb excels. His character spent most of the show providing the humour but when it came to serious scenes Webb was just as noteworthy and produced a really strong character. His songs were few and far between but he did them justice and provided a nice element to the show.

As for the show, it had a strong plot that held your attention, some very good songs - although at times combined problems with sound and diction let them down - and some identifiable characters. Tim Prottey-Jones has written some fantastic music for the musical but every now and then it felt like there was too much significance given to it and that the dialogue was there purely to knit songs together instead of take the plot forwards. Act 1 was fairly faultless and with a bit of work to the second half I hope the musical will go far.

The set was great and they have done a lot with a tiny space to create separate and identifiable rooms. Michael's room was possibly drowned in a few too many posters for his old band, Lost Boy, but in general the stage looked good and there was never any confusion about where the characters were, which can often be the case in small theatres.

I also think it needs mentioning that the entire cast and creative team are unpaid and for such a beautiful, unique production to come from commitment and dedication alone is a testimony to the west end and shows what a love of theatre can produce. 
After the Turn has done British theatre proud; go and see it.

After The Turn runs at The Courtyard Theatre, London until 25th February

Review by Louise Miles

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