First things first, a notable mention must be awarded to the sterling efforts of the two-piece band. Charlotte Senescall on the piano gives a finely-tuned performance as she diligently follows the occasionally deviant timing of the singers. Furthermore, the cello adds an atmosphere of pathos and genuine emotion thanks to Lucy-Rose Graham’s heartfelt playing. It was a shame that we lacked the violin part but the audience was certainly appreciative of the duo’s contribution as they were met with the most rousing applause of anyone. For sure, the musical aspect of this production does somewhat redeem its other weaknesses.
There is some decent singing, pleasing harmonies and the occasionally well-judged joke.
On the surface, the basis for the plot is a fairly traditional love triangle with the added device of the protagonist Iolite being developed through presentations of her present-day and childhood selves. There are some connections made between the two time periods, but there are also moments where they attempt to intrude on one another without any real clarity of intention. Indeed, the writing of the piece is where many of the problems arise. We are led into the plot gently, with exposition of Iolite’s family background, before seeing her in her workplace. From there it is as though we are put on an unrelenting rollercoaster of heavy-handed plotting and entirely implausible dialogue. Time and again one moment of disbelief is superseded by the next so that, by the time of the rather unnecessarily extreme conclusion, we are left wearied by what we are being asked to buy into.
The company’s treatment of character is also a significant disappointment. Though apparently seeking to deal with themes that might be relevant to real-life, we are not allowed the chance to emotionally engage with the characters as they behave in such bizarre ways. The character of Steve is particularly problematic as his continually explicit dialogue and caricatured physicality hinders any real sympathy for Iolite. The performances of the cast are mainly energetic and well-intentioned, but the overblown characterisation, far-fetched plot twists, and occasional corpsing reveals a rehearsal process lacking rigour and directorial input which considers the impact of the piece as a whole to be of the greatest concern.
There is some decent singing, pleasing harmonies and the occasionally well-judged joke, but if you’re looking for well-polished new musical theatre, Iolite the Musical is not quite ready for you just yet.