Last night the young company of Tip Top Productions blew the roof off the Forum Theatre with their sharp and powerful school’s edition of RENT the musical. As the title suggests, the story focuses on the hardships of tenants in New York, roommates Mark and Roger. Over the course of a year, friends and lovers, some new and some old, will face whatever life throws at them at the turn of the nineties, right in the middle of the AIDS epidemic.
Connor Grace anchored the entire musical as narrator and central character Mark, whose turmoil over his ex girlfriend Maureen, now turned lesbian, battles against his dream of being a professional filmmaker. His roommate Roger was portrayed by Jake Hankey, and the pair sang superbly with authentic rock and roll voices and impressive American accents. Josh Hankey took the role of Benny, their up-and-coming young landlord, ever demanding the rent, and his stoic characterization present a stark contrast between the bohemian tenants and the new wave of cyber-capitalism sweeping the nation.
Catriona Hogg took on the role of Roger’s new flame Mimi, whose heroin addiction and struggle with AIDS results in a wild and impetuous lifestyle. Catriona was sultry and feisty in the part, with great charm and vocal talent. The role of Joanne, new girlfriend of Mark’s ex, Maureen, was Abigail Sherratt’s duty, and she performed the more mature role of a New York attorney with gravitas and great characterization. Maureen, in all her totally mad glory, was portrayed by Brogan Craine, who belted out some incredible notes, particularly in the anthem ‘Take Me For What I Am’.
For me, however, the standout roles of this particular production belonged to Alex Aram as Tom Collins and Dominic Melluish as Angel. The relationship between an MIT dropout and a drag queen who drums on the streets was played out tenderly and with great emotional depth. Dominic’s Angel was enigmatic from the word go, lighting up the stage with an electric presence that demanded attention. Coupled with Alex’s understated yet deeply emotional portrayal of Collins, both in love and in grief, this perfect pair were a powerhouse of talent.
The production also contained a superbly talented supporting cast, who used every inch of the clever staging to fill the small studio theatre with sound and motion. Sian Baines was particularly hilarious as TV mogul Alexi Darling and Leah Dovey-Evans was delightful as Mark’s overbearing Jewish mother. Every voice in the cast was unique and melodious, and the combination of the whole company singing together is an unmissable treat. Directors Simon Phillips and Laura Roberts have outdone themselves with this slick and highly professional standard production, so be sure to get down there before all the good seats are taken.
RENT the musical continues at the Forum theatre until February 20th. Grab your tickets at http://www.tiptopproductions.co.uk/