This promising work in progress has so much potential and I can’t wait to see it achieved; with this venue as the perfect starting point.

As the programme tells us, Kaz Moloney has spent years curating this intricate show, and this is evident in its extensive (if somewhat disjointed) plotline. ‘Longitude’ is about just that - a man working to unpick a scientific concept often made out to be more complex than it really is, and unfortunately this musical is no exception. With direction from Amanda Noar, the cast of multi-rolling performers spend 2 hours attempting to teach the audience why ‘you need to know when you are to know when you are’ which, catchy as it may be, isn’t particularly informative. 

This description can be applied to most musical numbers composed by David Moloney & William Godfree, which are sometimes boring or bland, with a few brilliant ballads thrown in to keep us hooked. These highlights include ‘Dear King’ - a ‘letter’ song (which has become a common theme in new historical shows as a way to reflect on the past), and of course the finale - where an impressive 9 part harmony finishes on both a literal and metaphorical high note. One of the primary issues is that the genres of the book and score don't really match - with the music being too slow for what I want to be excited about. There is also the question of why the songs are so regular when the same exposition could be better spread out across the scenes.

Credit must be given to James Cleeve (keyboard) and Doug Grannel (double bass) as they are all we are offered in the way of a band. With stories as personal and heartfelt as this, and alongside the loss of live musicians at many theatres now, it would have been lovely to feel swept away by a full sounding composition - but this was sadly not the case, despite doing the best with what they had.

Although the characters are well written, they are presented poorly, with David Phipps-Davis carrying the show and adding a layer of professionalism sometimes brought into question by the technical elements of the piece. 

This includes a somewhat rudimentary lighting design (by Benjamin Veltuzhskikh), and projection graphics which seem to have been added as an afterthought instead of integrated into the vision of the show from the off. Zak Stanley’s set, however, completely fit with the space, and just needed to be better utilised - the GCSE drama technique of having blackouts between each scene didn’t help either!

Having a strong understanding of budgets within the arts sector, I understand that it can be difficult to make a crowd-funded project cover all of the necessities, however the props and costumes could have been created or sourced in a way that didn’t make them look as cheap as they did. More effective doesn’t need to mean more expensive, it just requires a little creativity!

Act 2 was notably more engaging than the first half, however the predictability remains as this show follows a very typical structure. 

While this debut run at Upstairs At The Gatehouse may not be the most ‘Tickety Boo’ production, the show certainly holds value and could be hugely successful with some tweaks in the future. To see it before it’s final curtain (for now) on 7th July, book tickets here: Events for 22/06/2024 (ticketsolve.com)

Review written by Katie McConnell


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