Jonathan Larson’s groundbreaking reworking of Puccini’s opera La Boheme, Rent portrays a group of impoverished artists and addicts precariouslymaintain their existence in Lower East Side New York. Centered on the topics of HIV and AIDS, the unconventional musical storyline has been a hitwith audiences for nearly two decades.
An outstanding performance from all the principals and the ensemble has unquestionably made this Rent the best production I have seen in the 2013 Edinburgh Fringe thus far. Meg Laird-Drummond is excellent as the bi-sexual Maureen, who displays her enthralling vocals in a rendition of Over the Moon, aided by some very willing audience participation. Together with Andra Roston Keay, as Maureen’s lesbian lover Joanne, the pair presents comically the quarreling couple’s relationship. Rachael Crone skillfully mastered the demanding part of Mimi, a drug-taking stripper. Most poignantly exemplified with the moving duet Without You, accompanied by Frankie O’Connor. With such a strong female cast, the boys were by no meansoutdone. Frankie O’Connor as Roger and Max Reid as Tom Collins were equally exceptional and for me they completely stole the show. Their powerful and confident vocals effortlessly shone through and I excitedly awaited their return to the stage. O’Connor superbly captured Roger’s anguish as he tries to leave his stamp on the world as he faces AIDS, while Reid’s portrayal of Collins was one of the most three-dimensional depictions I have seen, emphasising the emotional impact of Angel’s death beautifully. Scott Cruickshank seemed at ease with his role, fulfilling all expectations as the narrator, and detached filmmaker Mark. He commanded the stage well and provided a very realistic portrayal of the character. There were also fine performances from Colin Farquhar who brought an element of sweetness and flair to the role of Angel, a drag queen, and Mark Wilson, as landlord Benny, had a great sense of presence and was very convincing.
Ensemble numbers Rent, Seasons of Love, and Finale B were most enjoyable, with sublime and flawless harmonies. Rent is a fantastic piece of ensemble theatre and with an eager cast, full of energy and charisma; this show would be fit to grace the stage of any theatre.