Underbelly Med Quad
3rd – 29th Aug 2016
Stagecraft: Book: Performance:
Ever gone to a musical that is written by a graphic designer whose sheer determination has got him a superb cast and prime spot for his venture at the fringe this summer? No? Me neither. I recommend it. Liam O’Rafferty , owner of Red rocket graphic design in Swindon, whose clients include Royal Mail, First Great Western and Thames Water has succeeded in bringing a musical production to warm the cockles of your hearts igniting the well worn belief that you must follow your heart to achieve your dreams.
“You want people to still be humming the tunes when they leave. They have to be able to relate to the songs. A lot of people just think a musical has to be one style of music. But we’ve got Russian folk, a rock gospel number; all these styles reflect what’s going on in the story and the emotions.”
Not bad for someone with no prior experience in the industry.
“No-one took me seriously,” he admits. “I had not been to one of the London academies, I didn’t know anyone. There were a lot of setbacks.”
Final Chapter bookshop is the setting for this musical comedy that depicts assistant Atticus Smith (Adam Small), clever wanna be writer (with self-doubting tendencies ) escaping his banal existence through his characters’ tumultuous life stories – brave Russians Isaak (Matthew Atkin) and spirited Yanna (Sinéad Wall) caught up in the turmoil of 1942 Stalingrad on a treacherous voyage to seek revenge and indemnity for past atrocities. Enter Volga Levitsky (David Mullen again) the cruel murderer Yanna has been tracking – in Atticus’ head – for quite some time. What happens when she discovers that Isaak knows more than he let on about Volga? Will love conquer? Norman, Atticus’ boss (Mathew Atkin) has entered his unfinished book in a competition in a bid to save his book shop from imminent closure.
Things move up a notch with the arrival of Atticus’ father Roger’s (David Mullen) minion/lover the gutsy Lilly Sprocket (Gabriella Margulies) who is there to direct the bookstores takeover. Contemporary pop-folk scores maneuver their relationship through book offs, each trying to outdo the other with their book knowledge which is very entertaining.
O’Rafferty believes that “People can sometimes treat audiences like idiots, think they can’t handle too much detail or complex plot lines. If you engage audiences, you’ve got them.”
Ella Vize and Jessica Pardoe (violin and cello ensembles double as superb actors for the crowd scenes) add sparkle in the wedding scene and their talent heightens the musical score to another level. Ben Boscovic plays a noteworthy Russian drunk and is percussionist throughout the performance.
Joel Benedict who is father of the bride sings throughout while playing guitar, creating a believable Russian folk vibe.
Last but not least was the wise talking barman and bass ensemble Alec White who played his slick short scene with the ease of a pro.
Great value escapism is to be found at Paper Hearts The Musical , with minimal but artful contemporary set deign of backdrops of romantic words such as ‘rose’ and ‘snowflake’ by Anna Driftmier and exceptional choreography by Lindsay McAllister that complements Daniel Jarvis’ musical direction. Without doubt, Belle behind the ball has to be Director Tania Azevedo who was wise enough to have faith in O’Rafferty’s vision and make it the reality it is now.
Reviewer : Clare Crines