REVIEW: The Feeling – an original British piece with bags of potential

The cast of The Feeling Photo Credit Halven Productions

Venue: The Other Palace Theatre

Performance Date: 02 September 2019

Reviewer: Becca Cromwell

Star Rating: ★★★

Written by Monsteers Artistry’s Kyra Jessica Willis and directed by George C. Francis, The Feeling is a brand new British dark comedy musical that explores the intricacies of toxic relationships. Over the course of its 2 hours and 10 minute run-time, this emotionally-charged piece immerses the audience into the world of an interlinked group of friends as they navigate their complex and entwining relationships.

The first act opens in Mel’s Cafe, the setting for the majority of the show. There we meet Kasey (PJ Tomlinson), Edie (Chloe Hazel), Jessie (Kyra J Willis), Lexie (Pippa Lea), Archie (Sean Erwood) and Mel (Halie Darling), a group of friends whose relationships are built on an unhealthy level of toxicity despite being seemingly supportive on the surface.  Nothing is as it seems with the group and as the story unfolds, true personalities are revealed through a series of unexpected twists and turns which serve as a reminder that seeing is not always believing.  It’s little surprise then that the friends find themselves in turmoil, with unpleasant antagonist Jessie at the heart of the drama.

The Feeling’s multiple storylines all come together towards the end of the show. The narrative is fast-paced which can make it difficult to remember which storyline belonged to which character. The piece covers some hard-hitting and serious themes including pregnancies, lies, cheating and alcoholism. Despite the heavy subject matter, the show is peppered with natural humour which adds some much needed light relief to proceedings. It is during the second act that the characters true colours are exposed, which serves to shatter the perceptions that have been steadily building over course of the show.

Writer Willis provides a layered performance as the unlikeable Jessie and delivers arguably the most harrowing scene of The Feeling which has a palpable level of believability and heartbreak. Halie Darling gives an emotionally charged performance as Mel and is supported in droves by George C. Francis as the loveable Jamie. Pippa Lea and Sean Erwood provide solid performances as Lexie and Archie respectively and deliver a second storyline that intertwines closely with Jessie’s, with secrets and lies being exposed left, right and centre.

Through the exploration of yet another complex relationship Holt, played by Chris Barton, Jessie (Willis) and Kasey, played by PJ Tomlinson provide moments of heartbreak driven mainly by anger as situations are misread, causing the characters unnecessary pain and suffering. Chole Hazel, who had to step in at the last moment to play Edie, provides one of the most nuanced performances as her fractious friendship with Jessie is explored and unpicked as the show progresses.  

The Feeling uses covers of familiar music, stripped back and performed by MD Connagh Tonkinson including Foundations by Kate Nash, P!nk’s Who Knew, Losing My Religion by R.E.M, and Break Me Shake Me, by Savage Garden. While the music is well known it does at times feel disconnected to storyline adding little in terms of developing the plot.

The set is minimal yet effective, with ottoman stools being re-arranged to depict a scene or location change. The wall projection which is initially used to provide some context and back-story is somewhat lost during the final bows and went unseen by a majority of the audience. That said the show worked well within the performance space in The Other Palace’s Studio. The movement design is well thought with entrances, exits and aisle space cleverly integrated to facilitate the flow of the narrative.

The 2 hour 10 minute run-time does feel a little long towards the end, with some of the earlier scenes in Act 2 feeling more like a natural end to the show compared to those that followed. However, despite its flaws, this brave new musical serves as a stark reminder of how dangerous toxic friendships and relationships can be and difficult it is to both recognise and break free of them. The Feeling provides us all with an opportunity to both hold a mirror up to ourselves and our own behaviour as well as thinking twice before entering a friendship which has the potential to turn sour. Yes, The Feeling may need a little polishing and could arguably work better as a play with music rather than as a defined musical, but it is an original British piece with bags of potential.

The Feeling has two more performances on Saturday 7 of September at 3pm and 8pm, with tickets at £22.

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