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Rent: a pulsating and stunningly emotional revival

| Theatre | 21/12/2016

TheUK tour of Rent
© Matt Crockett
TheUK tour of Rent © Matt Crockett

Written by Sandip Kana

Twenty years after Rent made its theatrical debut off Broadway, it impressively returns to London’s St James Theatre until 28 January 2017.  After earning four Tony Awards and a 12-year residency in New York, it’s safe to say this heart-wrenching and life-affirming show remains a rock phenomenon.  

There’s simply nothing quite like it in the West End.

Rent, written by Jonathan Larson, is a vivid portrait of mid-1990s bohemian New York.  The production follows a group of impoverished artists profoundly affected by homelessness, drugs and the looming threat of HIV.

The cast in the UK tour of Rent © Matt Crockett

© Matt Crockett

Despite their troubles, the artists manage to convey their uplifting approaches to life, love and friendship, emphasising the need to focus on the present.  As the cast sing out meaningfully: “There is no future, there is no past.  I live each moment as my last.”

With the young talents Director Bruce Guthrie has at his disposal, this production was almost guaranteed to be a success.  But Rent’s inventive and intricate score fits superbly alongside the emotional and entertaining performances of a perfectly knitted-together cast.

The show has a whole lot of heart in it, from scene-stealing drag queen Angel (Layton Williams), club dancer Mimi (Philippa Stefani) and HIV-positive singer/song-writer Roger (Ross Hunter).  However, the chemistry that bonds each cast-member together is its single most significant and powerful feature.  Every voice, every dance and every movement are strung together to produce an enthralling, gritty and stunning production.

The cast in the UK tour of Rent © Matt Crockett

© Matt Crockett

The singing and choreography are faultless and uplifting, with the young cast hell-bent on producing such a poignant drama.

Although some of the slower numbers lead to occasional lulls, the choreography of Lee Proud – alongside the performers’ vocal talents – generally injects great momentum and energy.

No-one more than Angel encapsulates the desperation, love and strength that define Rent.  She back-flips, high-kicks and leaps into moves that grab the limelight time and again.

If there’s one production that encapsulates the meaning of life – the idea of living in the moment – then Rent is surely it.  From the dire street corners of New York, Guthrie produces a pulsating and stunning revival.  Larson would definitely be pleased with it.

Rent is being performed at St James Theatre until 28 January 2017.  For tickets, head here.

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