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Rent (School Edition) – CYGAMS, Cramphorn Theatre, Chelmsford

A simple but stunning set made from scaffolding with an upper level reached by a staircase either side, was the perfect backdrop to this moving and modern take on Puccini’s opera La Boheme.  It tells the story of struggling young artists trying to survive life in bohemian Lower Manhattan under the shadow of HIV and Aids.

This cast of 31 all under the age of 19 gave one of the most mature and powerful productions I have seen in a long time. In fact I’d feel it was almost patronising to call it a youth production because it felt like a young adult professional cast.
With eight main principals and numerous smaller cameo’s, the standard tonight was extremely high.

The opening number ‘Seasons of Love’ gave us our first introduction to these characters. Dan Hall as Mark from the start of the show was deep in character and never faltered throughout and was as engaging and energetic at the end as he was at the start.
Roger the songwriter, played by Matt Hedges gave an amazing troubled and passionate performance. I thought this was a fantastic portrayal although on occasion I felt he was excluding the audience by being a little too inward in his performance, but nevertheless this was equally as strong as anyone else on stage.

Livi Khattar as Mimi delightful as she had all the moves of a sex kitten and all the innocence of a child. Joanne and Maureen played by Phoebe Walsh and Virginia Hampson respectively, worked extremely well together, both have excellent vocals and their duet ‘Take me or Leave me’ was one of the highlights of the evening for me.
Jack Gunn as Benny has a difficult part to play as the friend turned landlord but he embodied the yuppy of the era completely.

Jordan Webster as Collins and Paul French as Angel were so well cast as these tragic lovers. Jordan brought all the emotions to the fore in act two and I truly believed the love between the two throughout the show. The sign of a true performer is never stepping out of character and on several occasions when they were not the centre of the scene I happened to look their way and their interaction was still just as perfect.  Massive congratulations to them both on this. Paul as Angel was just so sassy with a hot strut (and impressive jump splits!!) in those heels, and with a number of other moves that could kill! Great respect to him as a performer because he could have gone over the top and upstaged everyone but he kept true to the piece and delivered an outstanding performance.

My only negative comment was the sound was over-amplified which meant lyrics were hard to hear and it was often difficult to distinguish who was singing as the sound was over powering.

Being so close to the cast you cannot help but watch their faces and performances in detail and every single cast member worked their socks off all night in fact every member of the cast was of an equal level to the principals and therefore this was undoubtedly one of the best productions I have seen this season and I cannot recommend it enough to anyone who wants to see an outstanding performance by such a talented cast.

Huge congratulations to everyone involved. If there is one show to see right now, this has to be it!
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