The simplicity of director Cassandra Tse’s approach allows the strengths of the show to speak for themselves. The set is kept to a bare minimum; a set of simple rostra and and bricked arch resonant of a New York Brownstone doorway. This simplicity works favourably in terms of the space. Keeping the clutter on the relatively small stage to a minimum only enhances the impact of the performers, and the cast of four have such strength both as individuals and as an ensemble that too much more would risk gilding the lily. Frequent leaps in time and space throughout the show that are executed effortlessly, thanks to both excellent use of space and a clean lighting design by Aaron Blackledge. Props are also kept to a minimum, and the result is that their uses are so satisfyingly effective. They exist to aid the performers in the their storytelling without either overshadowing it or becoming redundant. A moment of particular enjoyment for me was the number ‘Let Things Go’, centring around the very familiar ritual of packing and unpacking as Claire attempts to rid herself of sentimental baggage.
The solo pianist sets the tone of intimacy appropriate for the show; an intimacy perfectly complimented by the Gryphon theatre. Whilst the score is lively and energised, it’s never overwhelming; a feature that lets me sink deeper into the performances. It provides a subtle underscore to the action and painting of characters, and the continual discordance echoes the uneasiness underpinning the characters journeys. It’s a nuanced score for a nuanced show, and all performers follow these shifts perfectly. I was particularly impressed in Deb’s (Brigid Boyle) song 'Dear Professor Thompson', in which she followed the dramatic jolts of the score with confidence .This is just one example of what the cast as a whole nails - their ability to perform totally in tandem with the music demonstrates a brilliant understanding and mastery of how to make musical theatre reach its full potential.
The cast do a magnificent job of tackling what must be a challenging hour of vocal gymnastics. Claire, played by Laura Loach, has a beautiful clarity to her voice that shines particularly in her upper register. Claire’s partner, Jason (Martin Tidy) bounces off the withdrawn energy of Claire with a powerful earnestness. Their dart-like duet “Fine” perfectly captures the simmering tension of these two clashing personalities. Oddball Warren (Michael Stebbings) makes for an intriguing and successful opener for the show, giving the perfect amount of charismatic earnestness to make him our perfect hero. Brigid Boyle’s performance of anxious over-achiever Deb boasts a bounding energy that lifts the room whenever she comes onstage - it’s clear Boyle is a master of comedic timing.
On the whole, the show is beautifully effortless. It takes me on a strong emotional journey gracefully, and when the tears come (and come they do), they come because we have grown to really care about these people who feel so like ourselves and our friends. Ordinary Days feels refreshing. It’s the perfect way to close the evening, a short washing of the soul by which you laugh, cry and love and feel all the more better for it. Make catching the last show a priority, as this is musical theatre at its best.