Celebrating its 20th anniversary in production, ‘RENT’ was a perfect choice for Brisbane Powerhouse’s MELT Festival.
A rock musical filled with emotion, controversy and passion, its popularity is evident amongst audiences of today.
‘RENT’ is award-winning – having claimed primitive Tony Awards and an esteemed Pulitzer Prize. A re-imagining of Puccini’s opera ‘La Boheme’, the play focuses on the essences of humanity, the seduction of love and the anxiety of having nothing to lose. It’s a gold mine for performers, with multiple storylines, epic ballads and a chance for freedom of expression.
Director Tim Hill and choreographer Tess Hill staged a solid show in the Visy Theatre. The inventive production painted a heartfelt picture of bohemians living in the dark New York City shadows. The cast captured the struggles of living in urban decay and the fear of succumbing to drug addiction and HIV/Aids epidemics. Costumes were grungy, songs were soulful and actors were bold.
Every cast member threw their heart and hunger into the show. There wasn’t a fault in performances; however there were stand-outs. Tom Davis shone in the role of Angel. He was out-there, sassy and added a rawness to his performance that suited the character incredibly. Ruby Clark was striking and comical as the rebellious Maureen; Aurelie Roque was compelling as love-struck Joanne and the ensemble work of Heidi Enchelmaier, Hannah Grondin, Isaac Lindley and Jacob Langmack really carried the show.
Movement was well presented in the space with actors performing in every nook and cranny. The stage design worked perfectly – with cut wooden boards attached to the floor of the stage, simplistic props and urban brick exteriors.
Towards the back of the stage, the band played in a dim-lit den, which adhered to the mood of the production. Lighting was creative and transported characters to different parts of New York with ease.
Unfortunately the biggest thing that let the show down was sound. At times, the band and music was much louder and this distorted the clarity of the actors’ singing. During the first act, dead mics meant that lead performer and narrator, Jackson McGovern, was hardly heard. It was really sad to see as his role is crucial to the storyline – kind of like the driver of each scene change. ‘RENT’ is notorious for its multiple plots and is known to be quite difficult to follow. For your average Joe who knows nothing about the show’s synopsis, the lack of sound would have made it hard to keep up.
Technical difficulties were solved in the second act, but sound levels still made understanding the story challenging.
This production beats with love and pain. The size of the Visy Theatre made the rock musical challenging to perform, but also rewarding, as audiences connected to characters on intimate levels. There wasn’t a dry eye in the building, as the sold-out show tugged away at heartstrings. Definitely worth a visit if you can nab yourself a golden ticket.