We spend a third of our lives in bed. It sees us in our most intimate moments, providing warmth and comfort when no-one else will. Alice and Ben are newly-weds who, in place of their honeymoon, bought a luxury divan with a lifetime guarantee. Written by Tim Anfilogoff and Alan Whittaker and directed by Matthew Gould, Bed: The Musical follows the couple over twenty years of their married life, for better and for worse.
Elston and MacMahon have wonderful chemistry and their voices seamlessly mix in harmony
The musical is sung-through, carried by the two leads Madeleine MacMahon and Drew Elston who are on stage for the entire performance with only their bed for company. The musical is aptly intimate, evoked by the solo piano accompaniment and the restrictive stage space which is poetically navigated by the performers’ sensitive movement work. The minimalist set and costume works to quell distraction and amplify the characters’ storytelling through song.
Sung-through musicals are highly challenging for both composers and performers, and the cast do exceptionally well in sustaining their strong vocals throughout the show, especially considering that the entire score rests on their shoulders alone. The music is modern and charming, characterised by the dominant use of ballad. The musical is coloured by a slightly sombre tone as the songs blend into one another at times without significant distinction. The audience welcome the tonal shifts and upbeat numbers in breaking up what could otherwise be a somewhat gloomy picture of married life. The use of a band in place of a solo piano might work in the musical’s favour to convey the broader spectrum of emotion experienced by the two leads, and aid the actors in communicating more authentic moments of climax. There are, however, effective moments where strong beats in the storyline are mirrored in the score, creating dynamic contrast and a greater sense of intrigue.
Elston and MacMahon have wonderful chemistry and their voices seamlessly mix in harmony. The acting is naturalistic and heartfelt as the audience encounter both heartbreaking and uplifting junctures in Alice and Ben’s marriage. The story itself is undeniably real and connects with audiences of different generations. It is an interesting concept, known to have seen great success in musicals such as The Last Five Years and I Love You You’re Perfect, Now Change. Bed could benefit from implementing a little more musical complexity as seen in these shows, even if it is a case of adding strings and bass. This might help communicate the story with greater momentum and energy.
Bed is a touching musical about love, forgiveness and life’s unpredictability and will intrigue fans of contemporary musical theatre.