Living in a small, zone 2 flat in London with good jobs, Phillip and Izzy, the adorable couple they area, appear to have it all. But life isn’t as it seems and not everything they wish for is fulfilled. If you take Jason Robert Brown’s ‘The Last Five Years’, but add Tinder, social media, and a host of quirky characters including a swinger friend and a Portugese Barista, and set it all in contemporary London then you get ‘This Little Life of Mine’.
That is, of course, not to diminish the show. It’s absolutely wonderful to see a brand new British musical be created, as lately there has been such an onslaught of US shows that it’s been hard for new Brit musicals to get a look in. ‘This Little Life’ is a show which works best in a space such as the Park Theatre, where it is currently playing until 29 October. It is intimate, and you feel instantly at home watching these eerily familiar characters including an over-friendly bartender, nagging mother-in-law, and the caring best friend always on Tinder dates. I can definitely see this show playing in spaces such as the St.James Theatre and Trafalgar Studios!
The show is produced by Stage Traffic productions with a book written and directed by Michael Yale, and music by Charlie Round-Turner. The songs themselves range from the fun pop tune of ‘Hey Prince Charming’, which has been stuck in my head since last night, to the melancholy act one closer (which I unfortunately don’t know the name of), as well as the hilarious Swingers’ song and “Just One More Drink”, which I think is the song which sums up my time at university thus far. It’s great that the show has such a range in style and tone of songs, as it reflects the way life works, which in this show, doesn’t necessarily work the way you will it to. However, it was a shame there was no opening number or eleven O’clock number. On the other hand, the simplicity of the production is what makes it so charming.
And that’s what I love about the show – there is no definitive ending. I don’t want to give much away but there is a final photo projected onto the back wall which leaves the audience guessing: did that happen? Is it a fantasy? Is it what could have been? Thus is life – we will never know.
The production comprises of four highly talented actors. Kate Batter and James Robinson play protagonist couple Izzy and Phillip, and we really see them go through the trials and tribulations of a real young relationship in London. There’s a lovely moment where they’re both singing, but Phillip is doing so through a screen – showing how their relationship has faltered. However, it was Greg Barnett and Caroline Deverill, each playing a variety of small roles, who stole the show for me. Each of their characters was distinct, which was perfect. Barnett’s highly comedic role of the barista and bartender had me laughing my socks off (I have worked in both of these jobs so highly sympathie!), and his comic timing was impeccable. Deverill was strong throughout, but it was her solo number as Phillip’s mother which almost drew me to tears. Emotionally charged and full of truth, I am sure the song managed to tug at the heartstrings of every member of the audience.
I was, however, unsure at times as to the setting. Though I knew we were in 2016 London, the costumes made me think we were in the early noughties due to Izzy’s frumpy outfits of shirt, jumper-vest, and long swing skirt. Despite the advertisement of the show depicted social media, there was a distinct lack of it for 2016 London – Izzy and Phillip pretended to know next-to-nothing about it. Social media does not, however, translate well on stage, so this choice does make sense. There was a lovely moment in the final song, “Film of my life”, sung by Izzy, with projections of photos in the background, which I thought was a lovely touch; it would have been nice to see this done at times throughout the play, such as when photos are taken or specific memories occur, to flash up in the background as if going into some memory bank. It would be interesting to see if that would work.
If you like your musicals non-dancey, full of sex jokes and innuendos, with romance and a realistic story, then ‘This Little Life of Mine’ is the show for you. It’s intimate and quirky, full of joy and heartbreak all at the same time. I hope this show continues to grow as it’s much-needed for this generation of musicals.
Be at the birth of this brand new British musical.
*I was invited to this press night, but all views are my own.