Drawing the line between the exaggerated and the tender is no easy feat. Many new musicals go too far in one direction, playing for laughs or hamming it up for tears. Not so with the unpretentious beauty of You and I, a new musical from Colla Voce Theatre, which had the audience laughing aloud and visibly moved in almost equal measure over its fast-paced running time. Tom Williams and Cordelia O’Driscoll’s script and music are a stunning example of how to do a musical right; we will definitely be seeing more of them and of this show in the future.
It is unashamedly camp and silly while also earnest and touching.
The story follows Fran, a reclusive musician dealing with grief and loneliness, who is forced to take charge of an artificial intelligence unit which has been delivered to her front door one day – a robot called Robert. Fran must teach Robert about the world and protect him from those around him who might not be as patient as she is. Lindsay Manion as Fran has a hilarious nervous energy while also bringing real pathos to her solos and impressive guitar skills as well as a fantastic voice. Laurence Hunt in the tricky role of Robert is the stand out performer, both an uncanny, unblinking presence whose movements never stop being awkward and stilted while also invoking moments of real tragic heroism as he innocently navigates a world which he was not built to understand.
While the blossoming friendship of Fran and Robert is the heart of the show, the show is really an ensemble piece. Its power comes from the other performer and the energy and chemistry which they bring to the stage. Will Taylor is on stellar form as Ian, Fran’s happy-go-lucky neighbour, and Cara Withers and Martha Furnival show impressive versatility in shifting to a huge array of different characters with very little let-up. They are especially grotesque as Fran’s bitchy flatmates.
The live band on stage and flawless vocals make You and I go without a hitch; there is never a moment of hesitancy or uncertainty in any of the performances. Scene changes are minimal and undertaken with elegant precision, usually in character, and the characters who take on multiple roles all do so with the help of simple but effect costumes or costume indicators from Liberty Phillips. Elin Schofield’s direction uses the stage to great effect; with simple choreography and spacing keeping the audience’s focus all the time.
You and I asks the bigger questions of life but doesn’t require itself to be taken too seriously. It is unashamedly camp and silly while also earnest and touching. Ideal for fans of musical theatre who want something new to sink their teeth into.