Rent (Unity Productions)

In the midst of a Global Pandemic and with virtually everything musical or theatrical cancelled or deferred for a considerable period, it came as a bright light in the dark to find that Unity Productions were able to 'Live Stream' a performance of their current production, Jonathan Larson's 'Rent', on YouTube.

Whilst I am sure the experience in the room would have been much more atmospheric and I feel for a stunningly talented cast who must be beyond disappointed that they are unable to perform to a full house, this remote video view still showcased how Unity are and will continue to be a 'tour de force' in the theatrical performance arena.

David Gregory's direction is intense and yet delivers a rich storytelling experience, complemented by some invigorating and visually bewitching choreography from Anna Forster and a powerful interpretation of Larson's score from Adam Joy and his musicians this is a performance worthy of any stage in the world.

Rarely is casting quite as perfect as here, opening with Dan Wright's potent portrayal of narrator and struggling filmmaker Mark and Cy Wooldridge's emotional and consuming enactment of once successful yet now struggling musician Roger, one is never quite sure on which basis they have a friendship, certainly it reaches many highs and lows throughout the story and there must be something deep rooted in their connection.

George Stuart's quietly substantial and durable performance as anarchist professor Collins is a delight to watch, his rendition of 'I'll Cover You' at Angel's funeral is one of the musical highlights of the production and talking of street percussionist and drag queen Angel, a pivotal role if ever there was one and played with exuberance, charm and supreme confidence by Adam Partridge.

Virtually all of the characters in Rent are going through some form of emotional turmoil, probably the deepest in this state is club dancer Mimi and Laura Stanford manages to deliver an array of conflicting sentiments in the role in addition to another of the musical highlights as she duets with Cy Wooldridge for 'Light My Candle'.

Rhian Heeley delivers a powerful performance as Ivy League educated lawyer Joanne, now finding herself in a loving yet somewhat volcanic relationship with stage performer Maureen, a delectably feisty presence from Melanie Glazzard, together they produce my penultimate musical highlight with another duet 'Take Me or Leave Me'.

Previously on the inside of these friendships but, now on the outside having married into money is Benny played with authority by Justin Randle, probably the most conflicted character and therefore needs a great piece of acting which it certainly gets.

This is a small and tightly knit cast providing an exceptional performance and my final musical highlight is the iconic 'Seasons of Love' containing a stunning solo from Attiye Partridge but, it seems unfair not to mention the supporting cast in full who are Chloe Turner, Attiye Partridge, Elise Evans, Alex Thompson, Gemma Birch, David Page, Anna Forster, David Gregory, Vic Addis, Gavin Whichello, Kitty Roberts and Lily Moore.

Normally I would provide a link to book tickets for remaining performances but, sadly this 'Live Stream' was a one-off and we can only wait to see what Unity Productions will offer when performance venues open again, personally I am hoping for a bit of Sondheim as I can see them doing amazing job with something like Company or Into the Woods !


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