The Last Hundred

JOSH MARKS is blown away by this evening of excerpts from a new student-written musical.

ADC Henry Jenkinson last hundred Musical

ADC Theatre, 11 PM, April 6th, £7/6.

I have a confession to make. When I flicked through the ADC summer (should-be-called-Easter) leaflet, there was only one performance that I circled. Clearly I wasn’t the only one – there was not a single spare seat at the theatre.

When CUMTS performed ‘I Will Return’ in their Gala Night in February, they provided a glimpse of what The Last Hundred would bring. A naïve Tab reviewer – probably me – wrote on that night that composer/lyricist Henry Jenkinson deserved ‘some praise’. I take that back; Henry Jenkinson merits every single drop of praise that he gets for penning this masterpiece.

But before I get ahead of myself, I should just clarify. The concert is not the full musical production of The Last Hundred. Instead, the cast and on-stage band perform a stunning musical showcase.

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The cast are fantastic all round, particularly in striking effortlessly the balance between concert performance and captivating acting. Jennie King in particular breathes fresh life and a dose of humour on stage with perfect timing. The concert then, is both spectacular to see, as well as hear.

The musicians cope well too, squeezed onto a stage that is, for all intents and purposes, far too small. Ben Glassberg, clearly benefitting from the opportunity to acquaint himself with the music in Feburary, conducts the band with grace and a total familiarity with the score.

But if everything on the stage did fit, there was just a nagging feature that didn’t quite. The title, The Last Hundred (that is, a century), evokes grainy footage of 1914, of steel hats and sandbags. In fact, though, The Last Hundred is set in 1939, and a Mr. Neville Chamberlain plays a part.

Nonetheless, the music is such a redeeming feature that the title is hardly an anachronism. With folkish charisma and enchanting hopefulness, the music recalls some ever-present optimism and echoes the eternal simplicity of lovers’ letters.

For a piece of war theatre, war is only ever the poignant contrast to the soothing church bells of home. The characters are realistic, but show us a glimpse of some beautiful promise, with Oli MacFarlane, Joey Akubeze and Luke Sumner all delivering flawless performances.

The music brought both people on either side of me to tears. The band plays with a perfect collision of finesse and power. The singing is sublime. Costumes, evocative. Acting, charming. It’s poignant, entertaining, provocative, funny. I could go on forever.

Safe to say that when the ADC release next year’s schedule, everybody who has seen this concert and hundreds more will have fingers and toes crossed that Jenkinson’s stunning show is included. In the meantime, listen to these recordings (they hardly do it justice) and just understand that this is a thing of beauty.