THE CONFESSION ROOM IN CONCERT – St. James Studio, London
The Confession Room by Dan Looney (music & lyrics) and Patrick Wilde (book), is an original musical about a group of people at a support group who come together to share their inner most thoughts and feelings without fear of judgement. Their weird and wonderful, sometimes heartbreaking lives are at once funny, poignant, wistful and cringe worthy, perfectly reflecting the diverse range of emotions experienced in life.
Presented here in concert form, the musical numbers are largely intact but only a smattering of dialogue remains to give a little background structure. The strength of the score whetted my appetite and I left wanting more, as a showcase you cannot ask for much else and overall an enjoyable evening was had by all. The lively score delivered by an excellent cast is diverse and energised. If the same care and attention to detail was lavished on the book it surely won’t be too long before a full scale production is staged allowing us to see the show in all its glory.
The characters we meet are as different from each other as a group of people thrown together by chance could be. Each person we meet is distinct and quirky, their individual songs give a taste of who the person is but I wished for more of an insight into what makes them who they are. I longed for the missing dialogue, and the character development that surely comes with it.
Stand out performances added further life to the score, from Rebecca Trehearn as Caroline the counsellor in charge who has just as many problems as the people she’s helping, to quiet newcomer Tony (Stuart Matthew Price) who in an emotional song close to the end puts everyone else’s problems into perspective with ‘Second Chances’. Another number exploring a similar theme of loss is ‘Perfect’ about Oliver (Jon Robyns), a man whose life is shattered with the realisation that him and his wife want different things.
Matthew Roland is a guy attempting to lose himself in the world of fantasy gaming to escape real life. The song ‘Excaliber93’ is charming, but I needed to know what it was in his life he was trying to escape. Less successful is the character portrayed by Stephanie Clift, a ditsy blonde wishing to be taken seriously. Played for comic effect, she is likeable but ultimately a stereotype who reinforces the very misconceptions she wishes to dispel.
There is a lot to relate to in the confessions the characters make, and a certain freedom in the idea of saying whatever is on your mind without fear of social rejection. Embarrassing encounters, secret crushes and dreams for the future are all heard in this session we are invited to join and whether it’s ladies man Shane or sweet naive Grace the writers have created characters that on some level everyone can relate to. It is a celebration of the eccentricities that make us human and is infused with enough humour and heart that overlooking its flaws is easy.
I would like to see more of this show, I have faith that we will before too long.
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By Catherine Duffy
St James Studio, London, SW1.