Guest reviewer: Evie Freeman
Rent, based on Puccini’s La Bohème, follows the lives of a group of New Yorkers in the late 80s dealing with love, loss and disease. When Jonathan Larson’s musical premiered Off Broadway in 1996 it was a turning point in musical theatre history due to its explicit themes and iconic rock score. It showed audiences same-sex relationships, drug abuse, HIV and gritty life struggle – something they hadn’t seen before. It opened people’s eyes to a different way of living and is an iconic story.
Vivo D’Arte use the Frogmore Paper Mill in new ways with each production they put on. This is no exception and is a truly immersive piece, with the cast playing the scenes in the same space you’re standing and moving in. The ensemble are great and interact with you throughout by singing and talking directly to you. It brings you right into the centre of their world and they support the principles so well.
Screens along the side of the mill show you different views of the space – as some scenes go on above your line of view it means you don’t miss any of the drama. These screens also capture back-stories of the ensemble; fights, sleeping rough on the streets, and drug selling.
Vivo always deliver with their magnificent casts. And it’s refreshing to see faces of new graduates and even those still training being able to make their professional debuts with such a respected company. Connor Dyer, Aran Macrae and Lizzie Emery carry the story so well as Mark, Roger and Mimi, with impeccable voices and stage presence.
By far, the stand out moment is Benjamin Froehlich as Collins singing the I’ll Cover You reprise. The lyrics and meaning of the song spark emotion in every audience anyway, but his rendition is beautiful.
There were teething problems during the press performance, but that’s inevitable when doing an immersive piece; you don’t know how it’s really going to work until opening night.
My verdict? Rent is a timeless story and this production is well worth the trip to the Mill to see it!
RENT runs at the Frogmore Paper Mill until 21 July 2018. Tickets are available online.