Rent

Church Hill Theatre, Edinburgh
Tuesday 10th February 2015

I arrived at the Church Hill Theatre to a string of people queuing, it actually reached to the pavement and the performance had completely sold out. The crowd was bubbly and enthusiastic, everyone chatting amongst themselves and excited for the show. Rent opens with a duet between two young men. The set is industrial, scaffolding and lighting hanging so this workings are visible. Back lighting comes through a wall of windows, the impression is clearly given as a loft space. The scene is set. These lads are sad, they are skint! As are all the motley crew of characters. Their lives are followed for a couple of years through their trials and tribulations make ups and breakups. All of them dysfunctional but supported in the comradely of inner city hardship.

Rent is based on a novel written by Henri Munger called Scenes de la vie de la boheme about young bohemians living in Paris in the 1840’s. This in turn was developed into an opera and went under Le Bohem. When it was eventually picked up in the 1990’s the “bohemians” were transformed to depict the young artists of New Yorks Alphabet City, the growing lesbian, gay, transgender community and the the suffering endured by those effected by aids.

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Having never been to a Footlights production before I was surprised to see students taking on taxing performance pieces. I know that we live in relatively switched on times but erotic dancing and same gender displays of affection are still not common place in public. Stephen Fry may have been gay his whole life but some folk just aren’t comfortable with this idea so I was interested to see whether it would be carried off in a way that didn’t seem awkward. Interestingly it was the gay relationships that were most convincing, a sign of the times perhaps. Scott Meenan’s portrayal of drag queen, Angel was spot on and it was obvious that his friends in the crowd were excited to see him in drag as I was surrounded by laughter when he arrived on stage and they cheered as he departed. Lighting was used to separate the scenes lighting always focusing on characters. This is particularly well utilised when the calls of concerned parents flood in to their wayward offspring. The band which were place centre stage half under scaffolding kept the rhythm going continuously and at time I felt it was them that kept a lot of the action together on stage. All in all I really enjoyed this show and I’m no musical buff. It was a very brave choice of production and the atmosphere it generated was electric…

Reviewer : Sarah Marshall

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