Reflections on “Ordinary Days” at London Theatre Workshop

Following my interview with Streetlights, People Productions, I had the treat of seeing their production of “Ordinary Days” at London Theatre Workshop. If you can catch this show in London before it closes at the end of the week, or up in Edinburgh this Summer, GO! It’s a great way to spend 75 minutes, watch four super talented performers do their thing, and leave feeling better about the world… for several reasons…

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(L-R: Alastair Frederick, Nora Perone, Neil Cameron, Kirby Hughes) Photo credit: Natalie Lomako 

But before I get all ‘gushy’ about the production, which is justified gushing, might I add… I have to admit…I didn’t love the show itself. I’d heard several numbers from the musical (Ciara Power performed “Calm” at our last live show), but I’d never seen the show in its entirety. I wanted to love it. The first time I heard “I’ll Be Here” (sung by Audra McDonald), I cried like a baby… serious ugly crying… (Side note: Kirby Hughes absolutely gets this number…she is fabulous)…but I just didn’t love the show. There are moments where Gwon’s writing feels clunky, and I don’t think Claire and Jason’s roles are fleshed out enough for the audience to truly invest in their relationship. The show is a snap shot of four young, uncertain New Yorkers’ lives, and as an artistic Londoner, I can certainly relate, but I would have loved the writing to have given us the chance to know the characters better.

However, whenever I critique or am criticised, I remind myself of the famous Theodore Roosevelt quote: “It’s not the critic who counts…The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena”, and, to be honest, Adam Gwon is doing pretty darn well in the arena…and his songs do make me cry…so…good job.

“Ordinary Days” was a very smart choice for  Streetlights, People Productions. Company co-founder, producer and performer, Nora Perone shines as frantic, perpetually irritated Deb. Perone is an equally accomplished singer and actress, delivering Deb’s patter songs with ease and superb comic timing. Producer/performer Neil Cameron, is engaging and utterly adorable as Warren, an optimistic creative, trying to work out what to do with his life. The roles of Deb and Warren fit Perone and Cameron like well-tailored suits, that Dame Julie herself would admire! Kirby Hughes and Alistair Frederick are also practically perfect casting in every way. Kirby Hughes brings honesty, vulnerability and flawless vocals to the role of Claire. Alistair Frederick conveys Jason’s confusions, frustrations and true love for Claire with sincerity…and has a divine singing voice!  Director/Company co-founder, Jen Coles, makes the most of London Theatre Workshop’s intimate (and very hot!) black box space, configuring the action seamlessly, with minimal but effective staging and scenery. Musical Director, Rowland Braché plays Gwon’s tricky score with flair and is a sensitive collaborator with the singers. All in all, it’s a great production, not to be missed.

Despite my doubts about how of “Ordinary Days” hangs together as a piece of writing, I connect with the sentiment of the show wholeheartedly. It shows those moments of adulthood when you start to wonder whether life could ever be what you’d dreamed of as a child…but in a far more modern, relatable way than Fantine’s Act 1 wailings in “Les Miserables”… I know that feeling… I even wrote about it here … and as one of many 5’7″ blonde actress/singer/creative types in a crazy, wonderful capital city, I can relate to Warren’s frustrations at the beginning of the show:

“The city tends to make me feel invisible.
Yes, of all the superpowers it’s the one I’d like to have.
But it isn’t very handy when you’re trying to get noticed as a pioneer of visual art.
I start. My every morning.
In the thick of all these people with my hopes and dreams restored
And one by one by one I get ignored.”

Warren – One by One by One from “Ordinary Days” by Adam Gwon

But, just like Warren, and, later in the show, just like Deb; I keep going:

“And I know that I’ll never grow
As tall as these buildings
I’ll never quite reach the sky
But God, Warren, I want to try.
Don’t ask me why.” 

Deb – Rooftop Duet from “Ordinary Days” by Adam Gwon

I think that lyric and its setting captures ordinary, every day human endeavour wonderfully. My mood on leaving the theatre after the show was warm (literally and figuratively..it’s hot in there) and inspired. Nora, Jen and Neil were brave and industrious enough to decide to put on a show themselves and to work damn hard to make something of real quality happen and let people see it….something that connects them, artists to audience…and on reflection, that’s beautiful. 

Ordinary Days runs at London Theatre Workshop until Saturday 17th June. Tickets are available here.

The production transfers to Edinburgh Fringe Festival, playing at C Royale from 2-28 August 2017 at 8.55pm (No show on August 15th). Book tickets here. 

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