Quest

Street 2 Stage
Cochrane Theatre
(2008)

Quest is a modern-day morality tale presented in musical form. The moral that 14-year-old twins Vernon and Shannon learn, at the end of an eventful two hours, is that there is more to life than superstardom and bling.

The cocky duo played by Thiago Nunes Correa and Jessica O'Shea are the bane of their single mum Marie's life. Damilola K. Fashola ensures that she gives as good as she gets but despite her toughness the kids begin a picaresque journey that owes something to The Wizard of Oz.

Their search for the pop star father who they thought was dead takes them through the seamy side of London life today, threatened by dropouts and junkies, prostitutes and thieves. Like Dorothy, though, they pick up helpful friends along the way.

The star of the evening is Oliver Petts playing MC Charlie, a really talented rapper with a great sense of humour. He may not be great in a fight but has enough street nous to help the twins towards their Holy Grail. Equally helpful is Yasmin, a rich Goth with a heart of gold, played by Theresa Joyce.

Not everybody is out to help our dynamic duo. Dad's old manager, the truly unpleasant Nicodemus played by Ahmet Patterson, has his eyes on the magical chain that they have borrowed from their permanently spaced out Uncle Josiah (Nathan Joseph). This glitzy bike chain apparently has magical powers, turning Shannon into a good prospect to win a reality TV singing contest and Vernon, by now sweet on Yasmin, into a truly talented artist.

The other joker in this pack is a down and out busker, Sean Williams' Top Cat. He might be happy enough to put the kids up when they are in dire straits but has his own agenda, only revealed in the final scenes.

Street 2 Stage, a grouping put together by DreamArts, the Cochrane Theatre and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, is a fascinating young co-operative that aims to do what it says on the packet. The average age of company members is only 18 and between them, they combine to create what has turned out to be an enjoyable stage experience. Not only do they act, sing and dance at the very least capably and often far better, but in addition, the youngsters have also written the script, composed the music and choreographed the movement.

As a showcase, Quest is an undoubted success, although an inability to get the sound balance anywhere near right meant that the singing was often drowned out by a loud eight piece band, generally playing rap and soul. That is a pity, as both Jessica O'Shea and Damilola K. Fashola have attractive, soulful voices, while the rapping from Thiago Nunes Correa and Oliver Petts when there was a musical accompaniment was almost inaudible, which didn't help plot advancement.

However, the enthusiasm of all involved shines through and, in particular, some of the choreography and dance was exciting. There was also a sweet chorus made up of Melody Obeng, Nini Scott and Debbie Okeowo who kept popping up to tell us what was going on like the trio in Little Shop of Horrors.

This is a really worthwhile project that not only gives participants the chance to see what life on the stage and behind the scenes is like but also on this occasion, gave its audience a trenchant view of the gritty metropolis that these kids populate.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher