Review: Blue Workers
A glittering homage to the unsung heroes of the Cambridge theatre scene
Anyone looking for a spot of light metatheatre this week will have been blown away by this musical dedicated to the glitz and glamour behind every Cambridge theatre production. With catchy songs, a hilarious script, and a plot-line that is cliché with a refreshing self-awareness, writer Jonathan Powell and composer Lily Blundell’s musical achieve a dazzling success.
The story follows the plights of the production team individuals, or self-titled ‘Blue Workers’, as Ex-Technical Director Robin is sucked back into the cult-y and all-encompassing world of theatre for one more play about… What’s the play about again?
The chaos of producing a show is brought to the forefront on an incredibly immersive set that features the exposed skeleton of a show, with a live band in one corner, and costume racks and lights in the other. The show is essentially one massive in-joke for the specific niche of anyone who has ever had to deal with demanding directors and broken lighting; and yet, instead of only appealing to people with a history of show production, Blue Workers is incredibly engaging and gives the audience access to a part of the Hollywood scene that is often overlooked.
They achieve this through many endeavours, such as popular theatre references paired up with intensely melodramatic characters. Every cast member performs with an over-exaggeration which saturates the roles in deep irony, with dry and witty humour infusing each interaction. Characters are delineated by their intense passions, with costume designer Val’s (Lily Kemp) saccharine yet endearing love for ears, and lighting designer Kyle’s (Christian Longstaff) terrifying obsession with yes, you guessed it, lights.
But the award for melodramatic sensation goes to Director Toni played by the wonderful Iona Rogan, whose theatrics lit up the stage and perfectly embodied the caricature of the artist trying to materialise the unfathomable “vision” that seems to consist of everything and at the same time, “also not”. As well as this, Kitty Ford does the thespian diva role absolute justice in the character of Charlie, brandishing a skull and emotional support collar with complete “zen” (whilst also having a sensitive side under all the frills of course).
Moving the spotlight onto the assistant director for once, Jamie Ellis‘ Frankie offers a sensational turn-around moment with his sudden gaining of authority, accompanied by a fantastic show-stopping number about the solution to all life’s problems: the pub (a philosophy we can all get behind, I am sure). I think real credit is due to the two characters who really steal the show as they come into their own: stage manager Paige Turner (haha) and the sound designer, played respectively by Georgia Greig and Mahon Hughes, truly embody the message of the show as Paige achieves her dreams of becoming an actor and the voice escapes the confines of the soundbox, the previously disembodied voice floating out from the wings being one of the funniest and most immersive quirks of the show.
But of course, the show would be nothing without its “main characters”, played by Charlotte Dargan and the producer Alex by Jonathan Black, who successfully capture the protagonistic (and also antagonistic) journey of becoming seen in the theatre. All this is supported (literally) by narrator-turned-welfare-rep Will (Joseph Lucas), whose near-constant positivity and engagement with the audience is a lovely crutch to always fall back onto.
The best part of the show is its focus on multiple storylines and individuals, as themes such as isolation, family rivalry and pressure are explored in accessible, light-hearted and yet quite pertinent ways. The musical’s format is quite typical of this time, but I feel that the context of the show is what gives it a breath of fresh air. There is some further irony to be found in the fact that the characters’ tech roles are played by actors themselves, but, alas, this just exemplifies the paradoxical loop of the theatre, in that we never get to see the blue workers on the stage themselves.
This acts as a double message for the audiences to take the responsibility of appreciating every single individual involved in a show, and also for actors and prod role-holders alike to branch out from the status quo. Truly an entertainment success with a heart-warming and satisfying (if slightly lawless) concluding number.
A thoroughly enjoyable watch; now, pub anyone?
Feature image credits: Arina Machine