You Are Here
Reviewed – 20th May 2021
“a wonderfully crafted musical that ultimately surrenders itself to its audience”
“One small step for man” or “one small step for a man”? Whatever Neil Armstrong said, it’s etched in humanity’s collective memory forever more. People prefer the poetic balance of the former even though Armstrong insisted he said the latter – but there is no debate that Apollo 11’s moon landing over fifty years ago was “one giant leap for mankind”.
Chicago housewife Diana (Wendi Peters) was watching the blurred, monochrome images on her television screen on that night in the summer of 1969, whilst also gazing at the same crescent moon hanging in the night sky, framed by the confines of her suburban window. In an epiphanic moment she sees her own life, with her husband Gerard, as humdrum, a series of small steps. She wants her own giant leap and, unable to resist the tidal force of the moment, she wanders out into the night with just her purse and her innocence.
‘The Grey Area’ Theatre Company’s new musical is a charming and intimate journey through the mind of a conflicted woman. She is simultaneously awestruck yet weary; an ingénue who never thought she would live so long. Wendi Peters gives a fine and forceful performance that exposes the crystallised layers of her character. She winds up at the ‘Hotel Constellation’, blows a week’s grocery money on one night and tosses away her diary, all the while being admonished by the voices in her head. Rebecca McKinnis, Jordan Frazier and Phil Adèle represent these voices, as well as switching into the peripheral characters that surround Diana’s life, old and new. McKinnis, as Diana’s sophisticated but morally dubious neighbour deftly morphs into the surly hotel receptionist. Similarly, Adèle, another friend and neighbour in Diana’s previous life becomes a Vietnam veteran clouding his trauma in dope-smoke. Frazier’s hotel maid is the guiding hand that guides Diana through the maze of her new experiences. Far from being supporting characters or the chorus, their studied and varied performances are integral to the shifting tides of the show.
Neil Bartram’s score is, at times, a touch too gentle but like Brian Hill’s book, it isn’t shooting for the moon. There is an underlying reserve that is refined rather than flamboyant. Certain numbers stand out, such as “The Invisible Man” or “Is That Me?” – which oozes with a universal sadness. Peters mines the emotional gravity of the songs until there is very little left.
“You Are Here” is an odyssey and an oddity. It basks a lot of the time in the Sea of Tranquility, although a final twist towards the end of the show does propel it into another orbit, and the motifs and meanings take on a whole new shape. It’s a wonderfully crafted musical that ultimately surrenders itself to its audience. It is a voyage of self-discovery; whether we take optimism and hope with us, or grief and regret, is up to us. Whether a giant leap or a small step, it is a welcome return to live performance as we make our own journeys into the night again to London’s theatreland.
Reviewed by Jonathan Evans
Photography by Callum Heinrich
You Are Here
Southwark Playhouse until 12th June
Additionally there are two live stream performances on Saturday 22nd May at 3pm and 7.30pm
Reviewed this year by Jonathan: