Musical Chats with Olcay Bayır

During my time as Concert Promotions and Marketing intern at Turner Sims (if you’re in the Southampton area, make sure to check out their concert series!) I got to interview a lot of great artists. You can check out my interviews and reviews on the Turner Sims blog, as well as here on The Rosie Word. 

I will be uploading interviews in a series called “Musical Chats”, so stay tuned for more interviews with great artists! 


I got the chance to interview Anatolian singer Olcay Bayır earlier this year, before her appearance at Turner Sims was unfortunately cancelled due to Coronavirus. Olcay’s fantastic album ‘Rüya: Dream for Anatolia’ was released last year – make sure to check it out here.

We chatted about the story of her album, traditional influences and how performances change from country to country. Enjoy!

RS: Your recent album Rüya (Dream) has many references to journeys in it. What story are you hoping to tell on this album?

OB: In Rüya (Dream) I am telling the stories of my personal experience from the last 4 years, my musical journeys, what I have learnt, feelings I’ve gone through. My original songs reflect this and I also re-interpret some traditional songs with the way I feel and see.

RS: Would you say that your nationality and homeland is a primary influence in your music? Is your writing often inspired by traditional songs?

OB: My main influence is where I grew up and the melodies I hear in my head from my childhood. But one thing I’d like to mention is I believe that culture – more than religion or nationality – provides identity. I’d rather talk about traditions and regions than specific religions and nations. You are you, whatever religion or country you’re from. My main influences are my culture and roots, but every music I hear, every emotion I feel too.

RS: Do you find that playing for audiences in Turkey is very different to playing for audiences in England and Western Europe?

OB: Very different. How people hear and appreciate music is quite different, and that’s normal. One song is loved by Turkish audiences, and they may sing along to a well-known song, but it may not find the same response from another audience. It’s something to keep in mind when delivering a performance. And of course I need to explain the background to songs to an English-speaking audience. 

RS: You have a fantastic group of musicians accompanying you for this concert. How did these collaborations come about?

OB: Many thanks! I met all these beautiful musicians through music making. Some of them I’ve been working with since my first album. Some of them joined more recently.

RS: Does this kind of collaborative process feature in your writing as well as your performances?

OB: I start my songs alone until the song feels complete to me. To build it from there and give it a final shape is always a collaborative process.

RS: And finally, what would your dream day off be?

OB: Being in a cottage in a valley where there is no sound apart from nature itself, away from technology.

RS: Thank you so much for your time, Olcay!


CHECK OLCAY OUT HERE:

Musical Chats with David Owen Norris

During my time as Concert Promotions and Marketing intern at Turner Sims (if you’re in the Southampton area, make sure to check out their concert series!) I got to interview a lot of great artists. You can check out my interviews and reviews on the Turner Sims blog, as well as here on The Rosie Word. 

I will be uploading interviews in a series called “Musical Chats with…”, so stay tuned for more interviews with great artists! 

.

David Owen Norris is a world-renowned pianist, educator, Professor and broadcaster. I had the pleasure of interviewing David before he delved into Mozart’s Jupiter symphony with orchestra SÓN at Turner Sims on Saturday 14 March 2020. This concert included Jupiter, and Debussy’s Clair de lune arranged for piano and orchestra.

Rosie Sewell (RS): How would you describe Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony to an audience member who has never heard it before?
David Owen Norris (DON): A sparkling diamond of a symphony that thoroughly deserves its nickname. Jupiter was King of the Gods, and nothing is more commandingly brilliant than this, Mozart’s last symphony. The themes perform that difficult trick of being both catchy and distinct, each with its own character, and rich in possibilities, as Mozart shows as he develops his ideas through each of the four movements. Unusually luxuriant harmonies, even for Mozart, and a dazzling tour de force of counterpoint in the Finale, where a whole world is conjured up from just the four notes we hear at the beginning. One of the great summits of music, up there with Beethoven’s Fifth and The Rite of Spring – and Clair de lune!

RS: Mozart and Debussy were alive and composing just over 100 years apart from each other, and were living in very different Europes to each other. Do you find that these composers’ works particularly complement each other? Or are they really quite distinct from each other?
DON: What Mozart and Debussy have in common is an exquisitely sensitive aural imagination – a fine ear, you could say. Putting just one note into a different octave, for instance, would completely change the effect. One of my favourite moments in Clair de lune is where the opening tune comes back at the end. It’s almost the same, but Debussy adds just one new note, a C flat, and the effect is heart-breaking. Or listen to how Mozart uses his single flute, like a painter touching in a dab of white to bring light into his picture.

RS: You are the Professor of Classical Performance at the University of Southampton, and are working on this project with SÓN, who place an emphasis on education and outreach. You also often make presentations alongside performances. Is music education and outreach a key point of interest for you when you undertake projects?
DON: Music is more than a warm aural bath for us to wallow in. Great music makes its emotional effects by intellectual means, and the better we understand its intellectual aspect, the more emotionally satisfying the music becomes. So, Bach can sound like a sewing-machine, or like a wonderful tapestry of interlocking threads of different colours. Beethoven can sound like an old, over-familiar, library book, or like one of art’s greatest revolutionaries. The difference lies in the intellectual comprehension of both performer and listener. Education and Outreach are tick-box words, but the activities that they imperfectly describe – Listening closely, Explaining simply, Knowing that everyone can enjoy music – are very important ones.

RS: On a similar theme, do you find that working alongside young musicians and students has influenced and impacted you as a performer?
DON: It’s good to see the effect that a by-now familiar piece of music has, upon someone who’s hearing it or playing it for the first time. And very satisfying to observe processes of discovery. Above all, it’s stimulating to hear the new interpretations of a generation with different formative experiences, different memories, and different emotional expectations. And a lesson on a piece, for both teacher and student, is a wonderful way of exploring it outside real time, as you try things in different ways.

RS: And finally, if you could host a dinner party and invite three composers, who would they be?
DON: Haydn, Poulenc and Constant Lambert. People who couldn’t be dull if they tried.

RS: Thank you very much for your time, David!

REVIEW: Joglaresa at Turner Sims

The Coronavirus pandemic has got us all locked inside, and I’m on my laptop significantly more than normal! All of that screen time got me reminiscing about better times when we could go to concerts and shows… and so here is a review of optimal jollity from those better times!

Joglaresa’s ‘Teatime Special’ at Turner Sims was full of life, energy, beauty and fantastic musicianship. The group ‘continues to delight and surprise’ (Classical Music Magazine) from the first strum of their period instruments, until the last chord of the concert.

Led by Belinda Sykes, the renowned early music group took us through Middle Eastern, Celtic, European and Medieval music in a new and exciting way. In both the haunting love songs and the uplifting, satirical dances, Joglaresa’s early music was completely different to anything I had heard before. Instead of simply reproducing old music on old instruments, the group brought a vivacity and life to the early music that made it feel both steeped in tradition and completely new.

The singers took on the role of bards, who delivered and reinterpreted age-old stories for this new audience. Their story-telling was without fault, and every humorous line landed perfectly with the audience. This was assisted by Sykes’ hilarious interjections between each song, explaining a little more about the climate in which the songs had been written and performed. A particular highlight was a mournful love ballad, performed by Jeremy Avis, which left the audience in hushed awe.

The musicianship of the group was also incredible, with each song seeming almost improvised. Every groovy medieval tune seemed more complex and interesting than the last, and their joy and energy was relentless and contagious.

Hilarious, exciting, surprising and musically ingenious, Joglaresa was one of the best concerts I have seen at Turner Sims. Once this god-awful lockdown and disease is over and done with, get yourself to a Joglaresa gig!

REVIEW: Waitress (Adelphi Theatre, West End)

Quick Summary: Sugar, butter, flour – the perfect ingredients for a feel-good musical
Rating: ★★★★

If you’re looking for a show to fill you up with laughter, good singing and great looking pies, then Waitress the Musical is the one for you. Based on the 2007 film of the same name, we follow waitress Jenna through her unhappy marriage, her pregnancy, her affair with her doctor, Dr. Pomatter, and all of the lessons she learns along the way. Alongside her two best friends, the feisty, opinionated Becky and ditsy, American Revolution re-enactment enthusiast Dawn, Jenna takes us through a show that explores the ups and downs of relationships, both with other people and with yourself.

Lucie Jones as Jenna is a complete triumph. Her performance is in both parts vocally excellent, and theatrically interesting. She combines Jenna’s strength and vulnerability, as well as the desire to feel something again, in a powerful way so that you are left feeling incredibly sympathetic. She is balanced well by the hilarious David Hunter as Dr. Pomatter. Hunter is, again, brilliant at creating a nuanced, balanced character who is funny but also reveals traits beyond his comedic facade.

Other highlights include the pairing of Laura Baldwin and Joe Sugg as Dawn and Ogie respectively. The pair bounce off each other very well with quips and facial expressions, leaving the audience laughing when they say almost anything. Baldwin’s ‘When He Sees Me’ was both hilarious and sincere, and Sugg’s ‘Never Ever Getting Rid Of Me’ had the perfect level of dorky-ness.

Overall, nothing about this show is particularly extraordinary or revolutionary; the songs are generally written in a typical pop-theatre style, and the story is reasonably predictable. However, what makes the show enjoyable and successful is the fact that it takes its relative simplicity and executes it perfectly. The comedic timing and structure of the story all land very well with the audience. Every song is nice to listen to, and the harmony is divine. There are touches of crude humour, sincere love and real-life problems, all of which combine to make a lovely, all-rounded show.

Sweet, sugary and delicious, you leave Waitress feeling as if you could watch it all over again.

 


 

Have you seen Waitress? Leave a comment or join the conversation on Twitter!

 

REVIEW: The Audience (NST, Southampton)

Rating: ★★★★★
Quick Summary: For those who love good old Queenie, and for those who don’t.

 

A revival of Peter Morgan’s The Audience is currently showing at the NST City in Southampton. The play premiered in the West End in 2013, and stages the Queen’s private weekly meetings with her prime ministers. It poses questions of the Queen’s character and the necessity of the monarchy in our modern society, all the while showing us the comic and witty side of our serious figurehead. “Often funny, sometimes confessional, occasionally explosive” (NST Southampton), The Audience is a masterpiece not to be missed.

65 Years. 13 Prime Ministers. One Queen.

Queen Elizabeth is a public figure that we perhaps do not take much time to sympathize with. The Royal Family is steeped in tradition and protocol, and so it is very easy to forget that the head of that institution is also a person. Faye Castelow perfectly captures this tension between the figurehead and the people in her portrayal of Elizabeth. Her Elizabeth is passionate about her country and the Commonwealth, but also about fairness and justice. She is not permitted to state opinion on political affairs, and yet her facial expressions and body language go a long way to show how she feels. Droll, intelligent, likeable and very upper class, we see Elizabeth as both a “postage stamp with a pulse” and as a woman trying to maintain her integrity in a position that demands she compromises it.

The staging for this production includes a large conveyer belt which wheels the Prime Ministers out onto the stage, adding a layer of comedy but also a more profound statement on the longevity of the Queen’s service as well as the seemingly never-ending trail of middle-aged white men that seem to occupy the PM position. Paul Kemp is a triumph as the male PM’s, where he embodies the essence of all of them with remarkable skill and finesse. His Harold Wilson was the stand-out, with witty comedy and poignancy in his diminishing health, showcasing a close bond with the Queen.

Perhaps the highlight of the whole show is the confrontation between Elizabeth and Margaret Thatcher, played by Lizzie Hopley. Thatcher storms into Buckingham Palace in a rage about a newspaper article that has been published stating Elizabeth’s poor opinion of her. A wonderful scene then ensues in which Elizabeth and Thatcher engage in a hostile confrontation, stalking up and down the conveyer belt towards each other in what feels like a hunt, yet we cannot quite tell which is the predator and which is the prey.

The combination of Morgan’s writing, Hodges‘ directing, Vize’s set design and the performances from Castelow and Kemp make The Audience unmissable. The private meetings liken to therapy sessions for the Prime Minister, and throughout we get a sense that all of the Prime Ministers are very similar men, just in a “different tie.”  By the end, we feel we have grown to understand the Queen, her PM’s, and the delicate balance that keeps it all together just a little bit more than we did before we started, all the while being entertained with Elizabeth’s wit and perfectly posh accent.

 

See The Audience at NST City, Southampton from 24 May – 22 June. Get your tickets here

 

 

 

REVIEW: Catwoman Soulstealer

Quick summary: Giving ‘Crazy Cat Lady’ a whole new meaning.
Rating: ★★★★☆

Try this series if you like: DC Comics (obvs), Cassandra Clare, Daniel José Older, Richelle Mead


In this rewrite of DC’s Catwoman, we are re-introduced to the badass anti-hero Selina Kyle, and her ‘band of merry men’, Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy. We also meet Luke Fox as the ex-military do-gooder, Batwing. Full to the brim with high-stake heists, romance, allies and enemies, this stand-alone book is good for hard-core fans and comic book rookies alike.

The world-building in this story happens quickly. Within the first few pages we are introduced to the teeming, corrupt underworld where Selina Kyle spends most of her life. We learn about the social hierarchies and some of the basic politics of Gotham City but are expected to fill in the gaps ourselves as far as societal culture goes. When it comes to feeding the reader information about the world, it is more ‘tell’ than ‘show’; for example, we find out that Selina’s sister Maggie is very ill, but instead of finding this out through clues such as her coughing, or taking medicine, Maas writes “with her mother gone and her sister sick, no legit job could pay as much or as quickly.” This does the job, but I would have liked a teeny bit more subtlety.

As far as the characters go, they are interesting and reasonably well-developed. Selina Kyle has an interesting storyline; a female anti-heroine who is interested in protecting the people she loves, but ultimately has no qualms over committing high-level crimes. She is cunning, wily, an excellent fighter and adept at having secret plans that aren’t revealed until late in the novel – Maas’ forte, it seems! Her secretive personality complements the brash insanity of Harley Quinn and the stoic, green-fiend Poison Ivy well, and overall I found her character to be an enjoyable and pleasing read.

Some reviews make the comment that Luke Fox is only present in the book to give Selina a love interest, and, as a black character, to add diversity to the cast. I did not find this at all. I read him as a man struggling to keep control over his PTSD, Gotham City while Batman is away, and his growing feelings for someone he really should not be feeling things for. He frequently commented on police brutality against the black community, and this did add a good dimension to the book as there was the antithesis of him being targeted by law enforcement for his skin colour and yet he is the one protecting the city from criminals. I found it ever so slightly basic in its delivery; it was similarly more ‘tell’ than ‘show.’ This is not, however, a criticism of Luke Fox as a character – I liked him, I saw his good intentions, and although he was a bit vanilla, he complemented Selina’s character well.

Ultimately, I really enjoyed reading this book, and I got through it quickly. The plot, world-building, eand characterisation were arguably not anything jaw-droppingly special, but they held my interest, and I was invested in what happened. For both A Court of Thorns and Roses and Throne of Glass (Maas’ series,) I found that while I enjoyed the first book, the later books in the series were where I became truly captivated. Perhaps Maas’ writing is like cheese or wine – it is good at first, but it gets really good over time. If we were to have a series made out of this, then I might fall head over heels in love with it, but as it stands, I love it as you might love a close-ish friend. You’re not my family, you’re not my soulmate, but I get on with you and I’d hang out with you again.

REVIEW: Truthwitch

Quick summary: Sisters before misters, *KAPOW*!
Rating: ★★★★★
Try this series if you like: Sara Raasch, Renée Ahdieh, Kendare Blake and Laini Taylor.


This book is 479 pages of brilliant, completely enjoyable writing. You have to take this opening novel of The Witchlands series as it is – a light fantasy with sparks of romance, high-octane adventure and a sister-bond between two female witches. It is fun, easy to read, and puts friendship above all else, which is a nice angle that you don’t always see in YA Fantasy.

Character-wise, we have some interesting ones in this mixed bag. Safi and Iseult are the two main female characters and they are Threadsisters, a bond stronger than those between families. Trouble seems to follow them wherever they go, and the fact that the twenty-year treaty keeping the peace between the countries in Susan Dennard‘s world is swiftly coming to an end leads us to the conclusion that these girls will somehow be heavily involved in what’s to come. Both Safi and Iseult bring something completely different to the table. They are individuals, but both work together, and this is what catapults them from arguably run-of-the-mill YA characters to something vastly more interesting.

They are joined in the ensemble cast by Merik, Safi’s steamy love interest and Prince of Nubrevna, who is desperate to ensure his country doesn’t collapse into poverty and starvation after the costly wars. Merik is earnest and has good intentions at heart, but there were many times where I did want to reach into the book and throttle him.
We also have Aeduan, who threatens to fall into the brooding-bad-boy trope, but deftly swerves away into a well thought out character with emotional complexity and multi-layered villainy. He is definitely a key one to watch for character development, and also for potential romances… (I’m looking at you, Iseult!)

I got on with the writing of relationships in a similar way to how I got on with Laini Taylor – there were similarities in the dynamics between relationships, both romantic and platonic. This was an aspect of Taylor’s writing I really enjoyed, and this enjoyment translated into Dennard’s writing as well.

Dennard’s world-building has had mixed reviews from what I can see, as others think while there is some vague background information, we don’t get to deeply dive into the Witchlands with elongated descriptive writing. We are asked to grasp the geography, culture and politics pretty quickly, and sometimes you do have to reread sections to fully grasp the implication it has on your understanding of the world. From this angle, I did find it a slow start and if you want world building to have a stronger presence than action or plot, then this isn’t the book for you. While detailed world-building is usually something I really enjoy, I didn’t find I needed any more than Dennard gave. Her writing is full to the brim with fast-paced action and “dynamic storytelling” (Publishers Weekly), so to slow the pace down with too much descriptive writing would take away from what Dennard’s writing is all about.

We want kick-assery, magic, deep-rooted friendships and some “tense (tense!) romance(s)” (Susan Dennard), and that is what we get! What’s not to love?! I say give this book a read.

Susan Dennard also has a really good blog/newsletter, and for any potential writers/enjoyers of literature, I recommend giving it a follow here!

Rosie x

REVIEW: The Dark Artifices (series)

Quick Summary: Did someone say romance, demons and battle scenes?
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Try this series if you like: J.K Rowling, Sarah J Maas, Holly Black


Check out the full synopsis here

Demons, faeries, Shadowhunters, and a little bit of sizzle in the romance department – this would be an apt summary for most of Cassandra Clares writing. Indeed, The Dark Artifices series does not differ greatly from The Mortal Instruments or The Infernal Devices. There are obviously developments in the plot and the world-building, but overall if you like the Shadowhunter world, you will like this series. If you don’t, then you probably won’t.

The plot of this series is very good, with lots of twists and some interesting surprises. It begins at the of The Mortal Instruments and takes us through the lives of Emma Carstairs and Julian Blackthorn, friends of Jace and Clary and fellow Shadowhunters. We see more drama unfold for Shadowhunters, and once again the world as these young people know it threatens to come undone. This is a common theme for Clare’s plots, but I suppose if “it ‘aint broke, don’t fix it!”

Now, one thing I do really like about this series is the character building. One of my favourite parts is how Clare flips traditional male and female roles within the family. The clear example of this is Julian looks after the children, paints, and is very emotionally intelligent and available. Emma, however, loves fighting and is hell-bent on avenging her parents deaths. While these are not the only qualities these characters have, I do like how Clare reworks male and female stereotypes.

Another interesting talking point is the diversity within the characters in this series, and indeed in all of Clare’s writing. We have a bi-sexual couple, a transgender woman, a polyamorous relationship, hints at a gay relationship, a character on the autism spectrum, and the reversal of traditional masculine and feminine roles within a family. She gets it all in there. However, it does not feel like Clare is cramming in diversity for diversity’s sake. There is a wide range of people in these novels because there is a wide range of people in life. Clare is capturing a slice of humanity in her writing, and so of course there will be a whole range of different people. Being gay or Autistic is not the primary reason for the character’s existence; it is just a facet of their personality, and this makes these novels refreshing!

Overall, I find these books a bit of a slow read, but still enjoyable. If you are already into the Shadowhunters world, or like urban fantasy, then this is a good series for you. The character building is good, there are some fun and more devastating plot twists, and Clare is a great romance writer.

I would say that although you can be introduced to the Shadowhunters world for the first time with this series, I would recommend starting with either The Mortal Instruments or The Infernal Devices. 

Have you read any of Cassandra Clare’s books. Let us know what you think in the comments or on our Instagram!

Rosie x

REVIEW: Wicked (Apollo Victoria, West End)

Rating: ★★★★★
Quick Summary: “I couldn’t be happier” to tell you to get to your nearest showing of Wicked as soon as you can! You will be “changed for good.” 

Rating: ★★★★★
Quick Summary: “I couldn’t be happier” to tell you to get to your nearest showing of Wicked as soon as you can! You will be “changed for good.”


Wicked the Musical is an adaptation of the Gregory Maguire novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, which is, in turn, a retelling of the timeless Wizard of Oz. Wicked is currently showing at the Apollo Victoria, London, the Gershwin Theatre, New York and is also on tour in the U.K. and U.S.


T H E   S H O W

I am not ashamed to admit I have seen Wicked a fair few times. The ticket prices are reasonable, the London theatre is near accessible train and bus stops; but most of all meaningful friendships, vocal riffs, and a girl overcoming her bullies and critics all mesh together into this green, glittery, wonderful atmosphere that is not to be missed.

Part of the allure of the show is that it is a retelling of The Wizard of Oz, the children’s novel written by L. Frank Baum. It is interesting and thought-provoking to see scenes you know so well flipped on their heads, and have all your preconceptions of characters snubbed. You see the back story to well-loved characters from the Wizard of Oz, such as the Scarecrow, the Lion and the Tin-man, meaning you leave the show with the satisfied feeling of knowing the world of Oz better than when you came in.

The true pièce de résistance of Wicked, however, is the friendship between Elphaba and Glinda. We follow the two witches through their schooldays at Shiz University and into the rest of their lives, which are changed “for good” because of each other. Throughout the show, you see them love and loathe each other, and fight for and against each other. It is a very wholesome experience to watch these two women figure their way out through the highs and lows of friendship.


T H E   C A S T

Now. Believe me when I say you need to get to the Apollo Victoria as soon as you possibly can to witness Alice Fearn’s performance of Elphaba. She completely captures Elphaba’s desire to succeed, explosive, gritty personality and enduring determination for good. This coupled with her stellar vocal performances make her an awe-inspiring Elphaba. The reaction from the audience after key songs (“The Wizard and I”, “Defying Gravity,” “No Good Deed”) is electrically charged. There is something about watching a performer completely encompass the character and give everything she has got to the audience that revitalizes and reawakens you: this is what Fearn gives to every single audience member in that theatre.

Sophie Evans, who has also played the role of Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, takes on the task of the popular, enterprising Glinda. She captures the nuance of Glinda perfectly and especially comes alive in the more politically charged Act 2. The vivacity in her characterization is palpable, and there are moments during “Thank Goodness” and the Finale where her performance is tear-jerking. Bubbly, funny and unafraid to show the darker sides of Glinda, Evans was made for this role.

Other key performances came from Tom Hargreaves as Fiyero and Rosa O’Reilly as the Wicked Witch of the East, Nessarose. Both have strong and engaging voices which make you empathize with their characters on their journey’s through the show. Their interactions with the Good and Wicked Witches not only bring dimension to their own characters, but also to that of Elphaba and Glinda.


T I C K E T S

As I mentioned before, the tickets for Wicked are very reasonable. If you book well enough in advance, you can get tickets in the stalls for around £30 and £22 for the circle.

If it is your first time seeing the show, I do recommend spending the little bit more money for stalls tickets so you can fully see the facial expressions and all the little intricate details. However, the audio and views in the circle are still pretty good, so for £22 you will still get a very good show experience.

Day tickets
Are you a student? If you tip up at the box office on the day of the show you can purchase the best available ticket for only £29.50. Just remember to bring your student ID card.

There are also day tickets for the general public at £29.50 (again go to the box office on the day; it is first come first serve) and concession tickets at £32.00

If you have seen Wicked, share your experience in the comments, or on The Rosie Word Instagram!

Rosie x

The current cast of Wicked on the West End:
Elphaba – Alice Fearn
Glinda – Sophie Evans
Fiyero – David Witts
Madame Morrible – Melanie La Barrie
The Wizard – Andy Hockley
Doctor Dillamond – Chris Jarman
Boq – Jack Lansbury
Nessarose – Rosa O’Reilly

REVIEW: The Book of Mormon

Rating: ★★★★★
Quick Summary: The man sat next to me turned to his girlfriend at the interval and whispered “I think I just wet myself a little bit.” Enough said.

So. ‘The Book of Mormon’. Obviously, this show has had rave reviews all over the board, and the prices are pretty steep, so my expectations were HIGH.

‘The Book of Mormon’ is playing at the Prince of Wales theatre in London, just off Piccadilly Circus. My seat was C7 of the circle, which cost me £59.75. Considering this was one of the cheapest tickets for the show, I was expecting it to be one of the cheaper views of the show; i.e. visibility would be ok, but not anything special. However, the circle seating is really steeped, and so the view from any of the seats is pretty fantastic. You can see the whole depth and width of the stage from this seat, and I can imagine that the view is clear from most seats. Not to mention, the people sat in front of you are not an obstruction in the slightest.

Also, if you are a massive music nerd like me, then from these seats you can see directly into the pits, which is a nice little perk.

Finally, in terms of the theatre, I feel like I have to mention how ridiculously nice the staff at the Prince of Wales were. I know that most theatre staff are friendly, but the Prince of Wales staff were above and beyond in their customer service.

T H E S H O W

In terms of the show in general, I feel that everyone knows that it is funny. It is hilarious. However, what I wasn’t quite anticipating was how cleverly funny it is (then again, coming from South Park’s Trey Parker and Matt Stone, alongside Robert Lopez, we would expect nothing less.)

The musical takes an abundance of hard-hitting topics, such as the HIV/AIDS epidemic, gender inequality, race, oppression of the LGBT community, finding purpose in your life, and mental health, and talks about them in a comedic light. This is so important, because comedy is inherently accessible, and so talking about these crucial topics through comedy brings them to the surface in pop culture conversation. Not only does it bring them to the surface, but it also starts to shave away the taboos surrounding them.

If you’re not in it for the philosophies behind the comedy, then you can still get so much out of the play because of the combination of slapstick comedy, dry and witty humour, and impeccable comedic timing.

T H E C A S T

The cast currently on the West End are also massive contributors to the success of the show. Because the Andrew Rannells/Josh Gad interpretation is so distinct, and is the sound that people generally associate with ‘The Book of Mormon’, I think it is quite difficult to have an authentic voice and sound in the parts of Elder Kevin Price and Elder Arnold Cunningham. Having said this, Dom Simpson (West End debut) and J. Michael Finley (West End debut) do an incredible job of bringing something new to the roles. The characters are cheesy, and sometimes the ‘typical showy broadway actions’ sway slightly towards being annoying, but the delivery of the characters was so convincing I really didn’t care. The fact that Dom Simpson is only 2 years out of training, and playing this large role at such a high standard is testament to his talent and hard work. Another notable performance was Leanne Robinson as Nabulungi (West End debut). Her vocals were edging towards perfect, with an amazing flexibility and tone control, especially in “Hasa Diga Eebowai” (Reprise)”, is really admirable.

T H E P R I C E

One downside of the show is that it is pretty expensive. I went on my own (I’m super cool and really enjoy going to shows on my own) but if you were paying for two of you, or for a whole family, the prices start to pick up. It is not as expensive as Hamilton, but generally you would only get tickets below £50 at the back half of the circle, which is quite steep and potentially not ideal for vertigo sufferers. I would say either queue for returns or book at least 12 weeks in advance because then you’ll avoid booking fees. Although it is expensive, the quality of the day/night out you will get from it is well worth the money, in my opinion.

Another note is that if you have youngish children/you’re offended by strong language, there is very strong explicit language in the show, quite consistently.

Overall, the show is hilarious. But, more than that, there is an overriding positive message throughout the show, and it touches on some really important societal topics, and is the sort of show that keeps your brain ticking as you keep noticing and remembering things days later. I have a friend who said she knew someone who didn’t want to see it because they thought it was anti-Christian. My message regarding this is absolutely don’t rule it out because of preconceptions you might have. The play undoubtedly is using Mormon practice as a means for comedy, but also it acknowledges positive sides of religion, such as how it can help people, and give them hope.

Just go and watch it.

The current cast of The Book of Mormon on the West End features Dom Simpson as Elder Price, J. Michael Finley as Elder Cunningham, Leanne Robinson as Nabulungi, Steven Webb as Elder McKinley Richard Lloyd King as Mafala Hatimbi, and Michael Moulton as the General.

Rosie x