The Bunker, London
Music and Lyrics by Tim Prottey-Jones and Tori Allen-Martin
Book by Sarah Henley
Directed by Jamie Jackson
It’s a brave ask that has any composers title their show Muted - a name that by its very nature suppresses aural beauty. In this new musical that has been a long time in development, we meet Michael a former rock singer, who has been left mute following the traumatic death of his mother. Lauren is his childhood sweetheart with a secret and the show seeks to explore the unlocking of Michael from his emotional devastation.
David Leopold plays the Michael of today, mute but expressive throughout while Edd Campbell Bird is the Teenage (and sweetly voiced) Michael, with both men convincing in challenging roles.
Tori Allen-Martin, who to her credit both co-writes and co-produces the show, is Lauren singing with a vocal magnificence that brings a rich texture to her character's pain. Likewise, Helen Hobson's Amanda, Michael's mum, is another excellent turn reminding us of Hobson's remarkable body of work.
The imagination behind the story is impressive and with a striking denouement too, but as an evening's entertainment, there's something missing. Back in the 1970s The Who visited a similar scenario of a boy profoundly damaged by trauma in their rock opera Tommy. That show's songs however were massive and more than filled the storyline's ambitious canvas. While Muted's onstage emotions are clearly huge, its songs fail to swoop and soar, leaving one witnessing what seems more like the staged version of a ballad-heavy concept album rather than a full blown musical. For reasons not clearly explained, Sarah Beaton has designed the whole affair around a sunken paddling pool. Whilst this no doubt has thematic intentions of deep significance, ultimately the shallow waters prove a distraction. Good actors should be able to show their emotions through voice and body, rather than petulant splashing.
It is early days for the show and some of the sound needs balancing - likewise the lighting is at times too introspective, reducing the cast to barely visible silhouettes. Musically though Adam Gerber's band put in a fine shift throughout, including some gorgeous guitar work from Gus Isidore.
New writing is to be encouraged and for that, bravo to the trio of writers. But as a fully fleshed out musical, Muted has yet to find its voice.
Runs until 7th January 2017
Photo credit: Savannah Photographic