Mmm Hmmm

The lights go down and, from out of the dark, a sound comes...three female voices, singing together, creating a gorgeous melody . As the singing builds, a white box of light appears and three women run into the light. They run towards the front of the stage, reach a fever pitch and freeze, their faces contorted. The start of Mmm Hmmm is arresting, captivating and unlike any other show I have seen at the Fringe so far. And as the show begins, so it continues.

Mmm Hmmm blends a capella music, theatre, and movement to create something brand new and utterly thrilling.

Mmm Hmm doesn’t really have a narrative, as such. Verity Standen (composer and director), along with fellow performers Ellie Showering and Dominie Hooper, create beautiful, extraordinary music out of the scenes and sounds of our everyday lives. They do so with great humour, technical skill and, surprisingly, impressive athleticism. One minute they are chanting, ‘Mind the Gap’, ‘You do not have enough money to complete your transaction,’ ‘You have no signal,’ with the religious reverence and quiet presence of monks, the next they are scrambling on the floor, singing obsequious apologies, the next they are proper, ‘lovely, lovely’ ladies warbling over their ‘lovely, lovely’ tea. Scenes range from the hilarious to the emotional, all equally well executed. The performers jump, run, and hit their bodies in such ways that it seems a miracle they can continue to get notes out. Whilst some of the movement does feel unnecessary, it is mostly very well suited to the music and admirably assists in creating a mood. Intriguing and evocative images are conjured up by the performers’ faces and bodies, helped along by flexible costumes in bright colours by Harriet De Winton and a stark lighting design by James Mackenzie.

The forty minutes of this show seemed to fly, as I was constantly amazed and impressed by the changing music and vibrant energy of the performers. I was taken aback by the ending – it seemed to come far too soon. An impressive achievement, Standen’s Mmm Hmmm blends a capella music, theatre, and movement to create something brand new and utterly thrilling. 

Reviews by Jenny Williams

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The Blurb

A fast-paced collage of a cappella sound worlds. Each song explores everyday human experience in playful and emotive detail: a frantic card game, a fragile apology, a fervent cup of tea. Performed by a trio of female singers, Mmm Hmmm blends intricate vocal techniques and rich harmony with dynamic, darkly comic staging. Composed and directed by Verity Standen, in collaboration with Ellie Showering and Dominie Hooper. Developed at Residence, Bristol, with support from Arts Council England. ‘Verity Standen’s lusciously arranged a cappella music’ (Time Out).