Exposure The Musical

Jumping from ravaged warzones to recording studios and London's VIP clubs, Exposure: The Musical sheds a light on the limelight, dissecting the nature of fame and cost of success in the Faustian pact of celebrity PR. The show is directed by award-winning practitioner Phil Wilmott, putting his extensive background in classical and musical theatre to use in this modernising but unfocused take on Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus.

blinded by its own flashy spectacle

The camera follows young Jimmy Tucker, a wide-eyed warzone photographer fighting his own growing cynicism and pressure to live up to his father's legacy. After reconnecting with a childhood friend back in the UK, he falls in line with Miles Mason's sinister PR company, who commission him to bring down the corrupted big-shots of London nightlife. Instead of Faustus' twenty-four years, Jimmy's got twenty-four hours to capture the Seven Deadly Sins on camera: here, a pack of all-singing, all-dancing devils riding roughshod over the London Underground. Cue tube stations named after 'Pridewell', 'Sloth Square', and 'Covet Garden'. (Kurt Kansley's 'Greed' stands out as a particular highlight, bringing a brutal energy to the less serious side of proceedings.)

After an oddly static start, Exposure gets down to business with a vivid patchwork of musical homage to 90s rock and pop music – though its lengthy twelve-year development leaves it seeming just out of touch with this century. Some tunes prove too familiar to excite interest, and an early scene set in Jimmy's old sixth-form is too close to an S Club 7 music video to bear watching. Timothy Bird's captivating projections and photo montages add polish to the proceedings and prove a welcome break from the show's oddly stilted staging.

The dance interludes are thankfully slick and enjoyable, always working to show off the range of their performers. Choreographer Lindon Barr (of dance company Elementz Entertainment) aptly manages to elide his stark hip-hop style with whatever music is thrown at him. The vocals, too, are consistently impressive: Michael Greco's (Miles Mason) distinctive twang distorts much of the melody in his solos, but co-stars Niamh Perry (Pandora) and David Albury (Jimmy) imbue their songs with real emotion and make these generic tunes almost worth the show's two-hour length.

The production as a whole, however, is blinded by its own flashy spectacle, painfully unaware of its racial insensitivity and classist overtones – painting the African continent as a corrupt and spiritually tokenistic desert against the pure saviourism of its British journalists, and using Jimmy's ability to find a homeless woman attractive as proof of his inherent good nature. And just in case anyone felt left out, singing paparazzi banter across the stage, threatening to "rape" women with their cameras.

The story is inspired in part by composer Mike Dyer's own brush with death after a motorcycle accident, and the songs reach out for redemption; it's unfortunate that this lazy and tasteless story holds back his competent compositions. This reviewer can't help feeling Exposure: The Musical would fare better as a Greatest Hits mixtape than in its current form.

Reviews by Henry St Leger

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

The World premiere of a new British Musical

Young photographer Jimmy Tucker faces the biggest and most exciting challenge of his life when a stranger commissions him to find and shoot the seven deadly sins alive and kicking in modern London.

But in a break-neck race through the night, a series of extraordinary encounters involving girlfriends, family history and the intoxicating cult of celebrity begin to reveal that there’s a whole lot more at stake than just money.

Weaving a breathtaking, contemporary score around a dazzlingly witty portrait of the price of fame, Exposure is an electrifying and brilliantly original new musical that is simply unmissable.

Contains strong language and scenes of a sexual nature.