Soundtrack to Your Life

LEO PARKER REES: ‘Very probably talented writers… But they have miles to go before they sleep contentedly on a pillow of my approval.’

24 hour plays andrew brock Jeff Carpenter katie churchill lucie shorthouse Music Tadgh Barwell O'Connor

ADC Theatre, 3-6th November, 11pm, £4-6.

Directed by Andrew Brock, Tom Adams, Chloe Mashiter, Ella Jones, Phil Shipley & Nikki Moss


I didn’t want to give this two stars. I wanted to be generous in my review, and feel comforted knowing that there’d be over 30 writers, directors and actors who’d like what I wrote – maybe even on Facebook! Sadly, however, I didn’t go to a 4 or 5 star show tonight. Not at the ADC, anyway.

There were early signs that I wasn’t going to be able to justify a high rating. The opening speech was a first-night warning – a comparison to the 24 Hour Plays was made, and we were told how it would improve over the run. It was all very ominous, and there was a rumble of resentment indicative of a paying audience who’ve just been told they picked the wrong night to come.

It was followed by a bad scene. The music was barely noticeable, the writing was boring and the acting questionable. I won’t name any names, because I wasn’t given a programme. Perhaps they knew.

My faith was restored a little for a scene where a trio of actors silently explored themes of adventure and bereavement, like a jerkily balletic Up. The accompanying music was beautiful. Or, rather, it sounded like it should have been, and without the evening’s ever-hissing speakers it probably would have been. Horrible sound quality does not a good soundtrack to your life make, unless your life is that of Kate Lawler. It’s a shame, with so many people investing time and effort in this show, that something so basic (and obviously important) was neglected.

The only music to escape this hiss was the live performance by Soundtrack to Your Life – the band. The drumming was inventive and the singing impressive, but the overall they were less than the sum of their parts. Similarly, their choice of songs, as with so much of the evening, lacked imagination. They joked about being down in the programme as a possible musical interlude. Top Tip: Possible Musical Interlude would be a great band name.

As the evening went on, I appreciated the mix of scenes, and a few perfectly delivered lines (the father in the ‘Whatever’ scene, you know who you are. I don’t.). A scene that combined dance and non-sequitur Costa slogans was brilliant. There was some inspired cinema weirdness. I laughed at a man with a lot of cigarettes in his mouth. There was a lot to enjoy, and many clear signs of talented writers and actors. Very probably talented writers and actors who will improve the show as the week goes on. But they have miles to go before they sleep contentedly on a pillow of my approval.

Scene changes were drawn out, despite a very limited set, and inexplicably silent – what production could be more justified in employing transitional music?  When it did appear the music often seemed like an afterthought. A hissing afterthought. When the actors half-sung along the connection felt forced and false – there was no real relationship, no new dimension added to the music.

Despite these problems I’m sure the show will improve as it goes on. Technical issues will be sorted out and it may then deserve a higher rating. Alongside the GCSE Drama tropes of self-harm and THE DISCONNECT there was some good writing, but the line ‘about as useful as a knitted sink’ (and several others like it) was very, very bad. You’re not Charlie Brooker, Jeremy.