Tag Archives: Jack Miles

St Anne Comes Home

★★★★

St Paul’s Church, Covent Garden

St Anne

St Anne Comes Home

St Paul’s Church, Covent Garden

Reviewed – 30th August 2020

★★★★

 

“The three singers each give pitch-perfect, passionate performances that lift the material beyond the realm of ‘folk’, allowing the listener to hear the underlying grander potential”

 

Stories are everywhere; and the inspiration behind these stories can spring up in some of the most unlikely places. This is certainly true for Jack Miles, the writer/composer of “St Anne Comes Home”. There was nothing particularly special about his bus ride through a rain-soaked Vauxhall, his spirits as damp as the pavement outside his window. There was nothing special about the man in the church doorway, whose solitary, melancholic profile flickered past as the bus turned away. Yet half an hour later that vague shadow had morphed into a multi-coloured, multi-faceted scenario in Miles’ mind.

We all do it, at some point. Paul Simon famously scribbled the lyrics to the iconic folk song “America” while imagining the lives of his fellow Greyhound bus passengers. Finding the drama within the minutiae of the mundane is a skill that Miles has put to good use in this new ‘folk musical’ premiering in the centre of Covent Garden, as part of the Iris Theatre Summer Festival in the garden of St Paul’s Church.

James (Jordan Castle) is the focal character; homeless and, to the annoyance of the local fair-weather parishioners, has made a temporary home in the doorway of St. Anne church. Estranged from his young daughter he seems initially to be running away from his problems. Here he meets Bridget (Rebecca McKinnis) who is trapped in an abusive marriage and struggling to raise her own child. Over tea and sympathy, they share their stories. Meanwhile Russell (Mathew Craig), the Catholic priest, battles with his own demons, torn between letting James into the flock or, by bowing to his congregation’s unchristian intolerance, rejecting him.

It is within the songs that one gets the true sense of the story, rather than the dialogue of platitudes that link them. The three singers each give pitch-perfect, passionate performances that lift the material beyond the realm of ‘folk’, allowing the listener to hear the underlying grander potential. At times, however, the emotion outweighs the content. The storyline follows a predictable path along which the stakes are never raised high enough to warrant the sheer outpouring of grief and anger that these singers convey. If this is an obstacle to being swept away by the characters, we do have the consolation of being blown away by the charisma of the cast.

And Jack Miles has crafted a selection of very fine songs. Miles himself accompanies on guitar, alongside Claudia Fuller on violin and Ben Jones on Double Bass. Under Joe Beighton’s assured musical supervision the delicacy of the arrangements highlights the fluctuating moods and melodic structure. Jones switches from bowing to picking in a beat, matching the emotional U-turns of the characters, while Fuller’s violin soothes and angers in perfect time to the libretto.

From the back seat of a bus to a front seat in London’s theatreland (albeit in the open air, while most of the theatre’s doors are still closed) this musical has been a year in the making so far. Director Martha Geelan has been at the helm in shaping the drama, moulding the imagination of Miles into a refreshing new piece of musical theatre. I don’t think they should stop here though. The journey is only just beginning, but that is meant as a sincere compliment. At the moment it comes across as a storm in a teacup, but its horizons are so much wider than that.

 

Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Harry Grout

 


St Anne Comes Home

St Paul’s Church, Covent Garden

 

Previously reviewed by Jonathan:
Tell It Slant | ★★★ | Hope Theatre | February 2020
The Importance Of Being Earnest | ★★★½ | The Turbine Theatre | February 2020
Closed Lands | ★★★ | The Vaults | March 2020
Max Raabe & Palast Orchester | ★★★★★ | Cadogan Hall | March 2020
The Kite Runner | ★★★★ | Richmond Theatre | March 2020
The Last Five Years | ★★★★ | Southwark Playhouse | March 2020
A Separate Peace | ★★★★ | Online | May 2020
The Understudy | ★★★★ | Online | May 2020
Godspell Online in Concert | ★★★★★ | Online | August 2020
Henry V | ★★★★ | The Maltings | August 2020

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews

 

 The Problem With Fletcher Mott
★★★

Drayton Arms

The Problem With Fletcher Mott

The Problem With Fletcher Mott

Drayton Arms Theatre

Reviewed – 17th February 2019

★★★

 

“in the main, the energy and talent of the performers was this show’s other great strength”

 

The Problem with Fletcher Mott began its life at Goldsmiths College, and premiered last year at the Tristan Bates. It is being presented over two nights at The Drayton Arms as a work in progress, to garner audience feedback; this review is written with that in mind.

The musical is the brain child of Jack Miles – writer of the book, music and lyrics – who also plays a mean guitar in the wonderfully tight three man band. Music is clearly the driver here, and is, most emphatically, the strongest weapon in Mr. Miles’ armoury; there are some terrific songs in this piece. He is at his best as a composer in the high-energy numbers such as The Concept and The Power of the Pen, and he clearly relishes fast and furious W.S.Gilbert-like lyrical frenzy – present throughout, but particularly in evidence in The Headache, a herculean feat of articulation, splendidly sung by Lucy Ogilvie as Angela. The slower numbers are less successful, and the show really loses energy in the second half. The final three songs are pretty lacklustre and it seems a great shame to finish with The Apology, which is the weakest number of all.

The book is, unfortunately, a far cry from the standard of the music, both in terms of the plot itself, and the spoken interludes. The main character, the hapless Fletcher Mott, is not sufficiently interesting for the audience to be fully invested in; nor are the stakes of his situation sufficiently high. He is a non-descript writer, who fails to write a play; ultimately, what does it matter? The show’s padding consists mostly of incredibly broad comedy, which comes across as strangely dated in such a contemporary piece. Being asked to laugh at ‘yobbos’ in baseball caps talking like middle class academics seemed almost offensively retro, as did the tourists sketch. It all seemed faintly juvenile, as did the badly written swearing. Lines like ‘You’ve got a shitload of shit writing to shit’ brought the professionalism of the enterprise right down, and suddenly the cast seemed like a bunch of silly teenagers out to shock. It jarred every time, as, in the main, the energy and talent of the performers was this show’s other great strength.

Although the character of Fletcher’s inner critic was never entirely convincing, Rose Dickson sang with strength, sass and clarity throughout, and Hugh Train’s wonderfully energetic performance as Dan was a treat, culminating in his fabulous rendition of The Writer’s Mind in the second half. The ensemble singing was always on point, and all the performers fully committed to the work, which drove the show forward even in its duller or more ridiculous moments.

The Problem with Fletcher Mott feels like a talented musical theatre composer flexing his muscles. We will definitely be hearing more from Jack Miles, but Fletcher feels like a stepping stone. It might be an idea to collaborate on the writing too; to release a bit of creative control, allow another voice in, and see where that takes him. Watch this space.

 

Reviewed by Rebecca Crankshaw

Photography by Rosalind Steven

 


The Problem With Fletcher Mott

Drayton Arms Theatre

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Are There Female Gorillas? | ★★★★ | April 2018
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee | ★★★★ | May 2018
No Leaves on my Precious Self | ★★ | July 2018
The Beautiful Game | ★★★ | August 2018
Baby | ★★ | October 2018
Jake | ★★★ | October 2018
Love, Genius and a Walk | | October 2018
Boujie | ★★★½ | November 2018
Out of Step | ★★ | January 2019

 

Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com