Without

Ben Tomalin, Maisie Fawcett and Sophie Holmes’ Without is an interesting contender at this year’s Fringe Festival in that it has a very strong cast that handles an equally strong score with ease, but the plot itself is a little confused and seems to hamper the impact that the songs can potentially have.

Still has a way to go

Former teacher, now busker, Henry (Darragh Chaplin) accidentally meets a former student of his, Rose (Marianne Steggall), as she waits for her partner on a park bench near to where he plays music everyday. Both are running away from something and using music, they slowly open up and help each other work through and face their problems. This musical explores LGBTQ+ issues, addiction and family as part of its plot and central conflict, but they take the place of a character arc, meaning that the characters themselves don't show much expansion beyond these issues.

Without needs to decide whether it is a play with songs or a song cycle, either way something needs to change to make it a more cohesive show because the plot and the songs don't really fit together. The plot often can be considered superfluous and it would be a much stronger production as a song cycle, and more enjoyable as well. The songs are the main focus and the best part of this musical, to the point where the libretto appears to just vamp until the next number, coming off as a distraction until the next song, which is where the cast really shines anyway. Their vocals and harmonies are amazing, and they blend together seamlessly into a cathartic expression. It’s easy to become lost in the music, and as a song cycle, Without would still be able to keep and build on its strengths.

This musical shows a lot of potential, but needs to develop further for it to be consistently interesting to watch. Every part of it needs to be as amazing as its score, but unfortunately it still has a way to go before it can be considered a highlight.

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Performances

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The Blurb

Without is an intimate, vibrant and authentic new contemporary musical, telling a story of unlikely friendship, the power of music, and what a "home" truly is. Over one day on a busy street corner, Henry, a busker, and Rose, a runaway, find unexpected camaraderie and challenge within each other. As the pair confront Henry's estrangement from his family and his once-cherished career as a music teacher, and Rose's struggle to return to a home that won't accept her identity, they discover the importance of kindness, understanding and belonging – not only to others, but to yourself.

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