Bereavement: The Musical

JESSICA O'DRISCOLL-BREEN contemplates life, (the Van of) death, and musical theatre. Take a date.

ADC Theatre, 8th – 11th February, 11pm, £4-6

Directed by Jeff Carpenter and Andy Brock

[rating: 4/5]

I’m writing this from the Van of Death where my plus-one and I have come after an entertaining 45 minutes of bereavement, still in need, however, of a tiny bit more termination to fully satisfy our desire for demise. 

We were mostly satiated before this little freezing detour to Market Square, where a poor boy is puking his guts up right now. I bet the vomit is freezing a bit on the cold ground. Ha. Anyway, yes, the production was good and I rose along with the rest of the ADC audience tonight to give a standing ovation.

Photographs by Helen Simmons

The singing was wonderful, with Rosie Brown inviting whoops and cheers from the audience after one particularly impressive and funny number. Similarly, the music (by Jeff Carpenter) was fantastic, and the choreography (by Alex Lippa) was hilarious at times (like when tissues were used as mock feathers in a burlesque style) and always very aesthetically pleasing, with each actor very sure of their place on the stage. It was very solid, especially for an opening night.

It felt very intimate and real in the ADC tonight, which was nice and refreshing. However, sometimes the “real” became a bit too real (translation: boring). Now, perhaps this was a very intelligent theatrical device used by the directors and writer, imparting upon us the boredom associated with death and funerals. But, in fairness, it probably wasn’t, and it was a pity for something with a strong beginning and end to have a disappointing middle. Just like the Leggera Pizza from Pizza Express with a hole in the middle.

I was really on Bereavement’s side before seeing it, because I think it is a fantastically original idea, but I really wish that the whole thing was a little more thought-provoking than the one-dimensional cabaret that we were presented with. The main message behind the musical is that when we grieve, others sometimes wrongly expect that we cannot keep living normally and that everything has to stand still. Okay, fine point, but almost every one of the six stories pushed this point. It stopped being interesting after the second time.

That being said, there were some brilliant moments: Joey Akubeze’s almost tear-inducing solo springs to mind, and both the opening and the finale were great as well. The set was also fun, and the transitions were quick and slick between scenes. And kudos to whoever made sure the Mac was charged for all sound cues.

I hope that by highlighting the few faults in Bereavement: The Musical, I haven’t taken away from the four well-deserved stars it got. I did enjoy it. A friend just asked me if she should go on a date there in a few days and I said yes. You should all go on dates to see it too. Go on, ask someone out while you’re young and alive: we’ll be in the ground soon enough.

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