Olly Medlicott
King's Head Theatre

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Emily Sawtell as Mara
Emily Sawtell as Mara
Charlie Purbrook as Jack

Olly Medlicott is one of those brave (others might use a different adjective) theatre-makers who has written, directed and produced their own work.

His musical Rockstar, which has a short run this week at London's King's Head Theatre as part of its MP Pride Lab season, shows great potential, but to meaningfully develop will need another pair of eyes on it.

The plot itself is not a particularly innovative one, but the narrative arc plays around with the timeline. The opening scene starts somewhere in the middle, then plays effectively in prequel showing a new, female, singer (Mara) bringing the promised-for commercial success to an emerging band. This comes at the cost of her crashing the status quo and inflicting emotional havoc on the band's original members, the singer-songwriters—Jack and Billy.

The action loops round to neatly join itself where it started and then progresses to the breaking up of the band amid predictable heartache, substance abuse, guilt, and self-serving meddling by the band's agent. If you can hear an echo in here, I would agree, but I would also say "well done" to Medlicott for having a relationship between two men broken up by woman and not giving it any air time. Bring on the day that no one cares about a character's orientation unless it is actually relevant to the story.

At roughly an hour and a quarter running time, Medlicott has not allowed himself enough bandwidth to have sufficient story between the mostly passable songs. The affair between Mara and Jack only exists in some clandestine looks and shared absences, which gives the peril to their relationship a 'give a damn' rating of 1 out of 10. There is not a hint of either easy love or passion amongst the pairings because there is no sex appeal in the delivery and no sexual attraction in the text to play.

The shortage of book, both in quantity and depth, has also backed Medlicott into a corner with the characterisations. Some of the burden here is lifted by the songs, which often have some interesting lyrics with one or two early ones heavily inflected with religious symbols which don't ring true, and two in the later section standing distinctly stronger than the others, although the singing is in need of powering up throughout.

It will be interesting to see what Medlicott does with this show next. The first step might be for him to decide how wedded he is to the range of themes in the show and throw out all those that don't make the top three. For sure, the trite ending (nausea rating 10) has to go, as do at least the worst of the clichés. The certainty is that Medlicott must not be dispirited; the history of musical of theatre is littered with rewrites. When he picks up his pen, he will find himself in good company.

Reviewer: Sandra Giorgetti

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