Grease isn’t the word…
By Ross Larkin
Funded with campaign entity Pozible, Matilda Dixon-Smith’s contemporary take on 1978 musical Grease (this production was originally titled Grease: A Tragedy – later changed for legal reasons), Devoted is an intimate yet potentially alienating experience, not dissimilar from attending a party where one might feel included but, at times, ostracised.
Staged in a music venue, the curious space, in which the action occurs on the outskirts of the centrally placed audience, usually works well in providing an affectionate environment where one feels part of the story.
Re-imagined as, what feels like, a combination of Grease, Romeo and Juliet and Brokeback Mountain, Devoted charts the young love of Daniel and Sally played by Zak Pidd and Hannah Denison. Daniel’s love for Sally is compromised by his feelings for best pal, Nick (Eamonn George), while Nick has impregnated Raff (Sera Duff). After some endearing encounters and stacks of awesome original music by composer and MD Lucy O’Brien, the love square eventually turns sour with tragic consequences.
Utilising the garden of the Northcote Social Club, where actors play through glass windows works beautifully, almost filmic in feel. Other scenes require the audience to turn 360 degrees to focus on the action, keeping the pace active save for some clumsy blocking hindering sight lines.
This is, perhaps, why director Justin Nott opted to endow the entire cast with radio microphones for both song and dialogue. Sadly, however, this was a mistake. While being appropriate for certain musical numbers, the otherwise cosy and interactive context was far from requiring amplification, sometimes depleting ones bearings and detracting from the engagement of plot and emotion.
Thankfully, Pidd plays Daniel with commitment and charm, providing much of the show’s laughs and sincerity, while Duff is attitude personified and Kelly Cupo as Penny has a singing voice to die for and presence to match.
Accentuated by excellent songs, Devoted generally makes it difficult not to feel included in the colourful ‘party’, and engaged in this often funny, tragic story. Emerging young talent of this ilk deserve their efforts to skyrocket and hopefully grace larger spaces where microphones will suit just fine.
Devoted: A Musical played last night at the Northcote Social Club, 301 High Street, Northcote. Future performances to be advised.