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Theatre Review: Drunk - Bridewell Theatre ✭✭✭✭✭

Drunk 

Bridewell Theatre 

Review by Duncan Brown

Drunk is the inaugural production of the new McOnie Company that aims to "bring together a passionate group of all- singing all-dancing theatre performers to explore the possibilities of musical theatre choreography." To say they have achieved this in Drunk is a huge understatement.

What makes this piece so successful is the complete integration of song and dance where the singers are the dancers and vice versa. This always seemed to me the weakness of similar works, namely Song and Dance (1979) which was essentially one act of the song cycle Tell Me On A Sunday and one act of the dance piece Variations, Susan Stroman's Contact (2000) which had no live singing or Richard Thomas's Shoes (2011) which separated singers and dancers.

A huge part of Drunk's success is down to Tony-nominated composer Grant Olding, who has come full circle, returning to the venue, where he started his career as composer in residence back in the days when the Bridewell Theatre Company was a powerhouse of new musical theatre writing, nurturing a whole generation of new composers.

The score is a highly successful blend of wholly original songs with his trademark witty and incisive lyrics and 'pastiche' dance music incorporating Latin and ballroom styles played with great energy and panache by the storming five piece band, led by MD/pianist Tom Kelly.

The eight strong cast is also exceptional, each having their moment to shine as an individual drink. What is particularly impressive is that, without exception, every performer is a complete "triple-threat", equally skilled in dancing, singing and acting.

Among the highlights for me were the classic song and dance routine of 'G&T,' recalling Sondheim's Follies; the athleticism of the boys 'shots'; the sparkling choreography of 'Champagne' (Katy Lowenhoff); the weary Russian diva in 'Vodka' (Lucinda Lawrence); the moving 'Scotch and Rum' beautifully sung by Gemma Sutton and danced by Ashley Andrews and Fela Lufadeju and the stunning 'Absinthe' of Anabel Kutay.

What makes this piece stand out is the through line of Gemma Sutton's 'Ice' linking the drinks and stopping this from simply being a series of cameos. She is on glorious form throughout with a voice that soars, no more so than in 'Water' providing an antidote to an intoxicating evening of drinking.

A mention must also be made of the simple but highly effective set and costumes by Ryan Laight and terrifically evocative lighting of Richard Howell. It all looks very stylish and just shows what can be achieved on a limited budget.

The choreography and direction by Drew McOnie is superb throughout, really drawing out the character and story of each drink, varying the pace and mood with both humour and passion. The influence of Matthew Bourne is clearly felt in the lightness of touch and storytelling; he is clearly a choreographer to watch if this piece is anything to go by. It really could be the direction of a whole new art form, perfectly blending dance, music and theatre into a thrilling theatrical experience. I wholeheartedly recommend you go and see it before it ends it's run on 1st March.

5 stars ✭✭✭✭✭

Drunk runs at Bridewell Theatre until 1st March
Tickets £20
Telephone 0844 412 4305

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