Monday, 14 September 2015

Theatre review: See What I Wanna See at Jermyn Street Theatre



©Jamie Scott-Smith

Jermyn Street Theatre is a gem of a performing space, located just steps away from London's famous West End. I only quite recently discovered it myself, but after watching beautiful musical The Return of the Soldier and thought-provoking play A Level Playing Field, this small theatre has quickly made it into my list of favourites. So when I read that off-Broadway hit musical See What I Wanna See was to make its UK professional debut here, I was of course keen to check it out.

See What I Wanna See is based on a trio of short stories by Ryunosuke Akutagawa. The opener to both acts tells the tale of a doomed love story in medieval Japan, which in act 1 is followed by a murder investigation in 1950s New York where all the testimonies are at odds with each other, and in act 2 we meet a priest half a century later who has lost faith in his religion and decides to play God for a day.

Each of the three stories seem to be disconnected from one another, yet they're linked together by grand themes such as hope, love and belief. Befitting the title their core focus is looking past the obvious or predictable to uncover the wildly different perspectives that can define a single event. It's an interesting concept but one that feels a bit too ambitious for the small-scale show, and rather than creating a thought-provoking and innovative piece it ends up feeling disjointed and ambiguous more than anything else.

Where Tony-nominated writer, composer and lyricist Michael John LaChiusa did it get it absolutely spot on, was with the haunting musical score that accompanies each of pieces. Adapting the style for the three different settings, the musical holds a range of beautiful songs, particular memorable moments included title song See What I Wanna See, Big Money, The Medium and the Husband's Statement and Gloryday.

The songs were performed admirably by the cast of five, though the two most impressive actors within the production, who easily outshone the show itself, were Cassie Compton and Mark Goldthorp. Their voices and performances were incredibly versatile and whenever one (or both) of them was on stage it was hard to look anywhere or at anyone else.

For all the talent on display in See What I Wanna See at Jermyn Street Theatre, and some genuinely moving musical numbers, the play lacked a certain oomph and vibrancy that could have elevated it from an average show into something exciting and electrifying. It wasn't a dreadful musical by any means, but it felt incredibly average which, surrounded by the glitz and glamour of all the West End productions surrounding it, unfortunately made this quite a forgettable piece of theatre.




See What I Wanna See is running at Jermyn Street Theatre until 3 October 2015. You can book tickets here.

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