• Amy Toledano

Preludes by Dave Malloy, Southwark Playhouse

Image Courtesy of Scott Rylander. Pictured Tom Noyes, Keith Ramsay

What Is It?

A new gothic musical set in the hypnotised mind of Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff.

What Is It All About?

Sergei Rachmaninoff (Keith Ramsay), spends three years of his life battling with a chronic case of writers block. Sparked after his early fame dissipates once his unsuccessful full symphony is premiered, the show moves through various moments in his life and the lead up to his most famous work, Preludes.

His fiancé (and cousin) Natalya (Georgia Louise) is encouraging, as are his friends (who consist of the social elite in Moscow) and are certain that he will create another remarkable symphony again.

But nothing shakes the crippling anxiety Rachmaninoff feels, until he begins hypnotherapy with the world renowned Dahl (Rebecca Caine).

The piece is experimental to say the least, and takes on a non-linear style that weaves his experiences through his suffering and therapy sessions.

How Did It Make Me Feel?

This is not the musical for everyone. Keith Ramsay's twitching and sweaty-haired Rachmaninoff leads the piece, and his performance is internal and tortured, like every "brilliant" male musician is bound to be.

He is in good company onstage, as the excellent Georgia Louise plays Natalya, always the voice of support and reason although unfortunately with no other real purpose than to exist of her finance's behalf.

Tom Noyes plays the cleaner, more put together Rachmaninoff, maintaining his place at the piano in coat and tails and constantly playing the likes of Beethoven, which mixes classical style with the electric sounds of the musicians he shares the stage with.

Lighting design plays a big role in this production as Christopher Nairne experiments with strobe lights, kaleidoscope imagery and as many flashes and colours as he can. Contemporary references pop up in this Neo-gothic world, and intertwines the two timelines into one.

The show does exactly as promised, but often falls victim to the flashy technicalities of itself instead of exploring the truth of a creative struggle. The story is often unclear, and the pacing is incredibly slow, often getting behind itself and failing to define its intentions.

Anything Else?

A strong concept, that often gets lost in itself and its exciting and flashing staging and tech.

Amy x

Preludes is playing at Southwark Playhouse until the 12th October 2019.

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