Apart from skyscrapers and unemployment figures and interest rates and GDP (I don’t know what that is), maybe one measure of a country’s economic state is the state of its arts. Despite cuts to the Arts Council, growing (and justified) complaints that arts spending is far too focused on London, and apathy for new West End big hitters causing several high profile early closures, still theatres and theatrical spaces are popping up all over London: first Omnibus in Clapham, and now London Theatre Workshop, a 50 seat venue above the beautiful Eel Brook pub in Clapham whose vertiginously high ceilings and comfortable seats make for a very pleasant pre-theatre drink. Artistic director Ray Rackham has decided that the first production to be staged here should be Ordinary Days by Adam Gwon.
The small, simple space works well for this short, simple musical: the story of four New Yorkers whose paths cross in the Big Apple. The proximity of audience and singer gives the performance of each song a very personal touch – accentuated by lots of moments of eye contact from cast to audience members. Anton Tweedale as Warren is especially good at making it seem as if he is singing just for you, in part because of the sweet and innocent charm he brings to the role of the naïve dreamer.
Olga-Marie Pratt has some brilliant comic moments as the cynical and strong-minded grad student Deb; she acts as well as she sings and creates the most thorough and the most memorable character of the cast – she also presents a convincing volte-face as Warren helps her step down from her high horse and opens her up to life’s simple, ordinary pleasures. Jason and Claire (Oliver Watton and Marcia Brown) begin as a boring, attractive couple with boring couple problems but by the end both actors have brought a touching depth to their characters.
The musical itself, although a little twee, has some really profound moments, some great flashes of humour and a warm heart that does a very good job of beating away any lingering cynicism. Ordinary Days is a fantastic first offering from Ray Rackham and his team and, with Eugene O’Neill and Sondheim on the menu for the rest of the season, there is every reason to visit and revisit the London Theatre Workshop.
Ordinary Days is on at the London Theatre Workshop until 29 March 2014. Book here.