Symphony by Ella Hickson, Nick Payne and Tom Wells

Symphony promises to blend a live gig environment with the best of contemporary British theatre. Such a promise inevitably puts high demands on its performers, but they more than meet these demands, proving themselves to be what I can only describe as annoyingly talented virtuosos. They are actors, singers, multi-instrumentalists, all to an incredibly high standard. Part four-piece rock band, part theatrical troupe, they perform three short plays with astonishing skill and professionalism. The balance between the two works so well that you begin to wonder why more theatre isn’t done like this, until you remember that there are very few who could pull it off.

Symphony will have you leaving with a light spring in your step and happy about the current state of British theatre.

The writing is consistently strong but never particularly deep. This is most likely down to time constraints as each piece gets only twenty minutes to flesh itself out. The opening piece, by Tom Wells, is probably the most memorable. Jamie Jonesy Jones, an asthmatic 16-year-old determined to model his life on a classic underdog movie by completing GCSE PE, is in equal parts exuberant and cute. The second story though, by Nick Payne, has an unfortunately predictable set-up. The geek and the manic pixie dream girl share the same bus, yadda, yadda, yadda. However, it is spiced up by being written entirely in rhyming couplets, which add a level of wit and surprise to proceedings. The third, by Ella Hickson, deals with a real ale lover who falls in and out of love, eventually climaxing in a demented though oddly beautiful love song. All are entertaining and funny, though perhaps not as sad as they could be.

Unfortunately, although each piece merges with the music well, they do not merge with each other. There is a sense of bittiness to the whole show that is perhaps inherent in the concept. One longs for a sense of unity, thematic or narrative, to tie up these disparate stories and characters for it to mean more than the sum of its parts. What we have instead are three well written and very well performed pieces that fail to capitalise on what’s just been on.

Nevertheless, this is an interesting experiment that works very well. Symphony will have you leaving with a light spring in your step and happy about the current state of British theatre. 

Reviews by Rory Mackenzie

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The Blurb

Theatre meets live gig and stand-up comedy as three of the UK's hottest writers collaborate with Fringe First winning new writing company nabokov to present a hilarious and eclectic mix of stories told through raucous live music and spoken word.