Scene Unseen
Venue: Streamed online
Cast: Jessica Walker and Joseph Atkins

A cutting-edge new musical about identity, sexuality, and what makes us who we are. This hour-long song-cycle weaves a path from cabaret artist Jessica Walker’s emotionally complex childhood right up to her very particular wedding day, with songs about early gender confusion, sexual assault, first love and betrayal, and family secrets. It is a powerful, personal story with universal themes, expressed through Atkins and Walker’s uncategorisable musical mix of humour, classicism, torch, and a touch of Eighties synth!

I wanted to start this review by saying that it's so fantastic to see productions still being streamed online, even after the pandemic is over. This is such a huge step forward in making theatre productions more accessible to all; especially considering the state of the economy at the moment.

Scene Unseen is an intimate cabaret that takes place in an hour-long song cycle. It's almost a combination of pop and opera music; which may sound like an odd combination, but it definitely works. The story is told by the wonderful Jessica Walker, with Joseph Atkins on the piano. 

The cabaret is a very personal and an in-depth look into Jessica's life. Through song, it explores complex issues such as sexuality, identity, sexual assault and gender, to name just a few. It poetically begins on a wedding day, and ends on a wedding day; but the narrative in-between is a closer look at Jessica's life from childhood, to adulthood. It's worth noting that some parts of her story are difficult to listen too, and at times it almost feels too honest.

While there are some funny moments, like how Jessica tried to urinate up "a tree like the boys", but she realised she couldn't "spray like them", there are a lot of poignant moments too, such as when she's explaining how she's "spent much of her life disappearing into other people". There is a lot of dark humour laced throughout this piece. This worked well for me because dark humour is my coping mechanism to such situations, but there may be some moments that are uncomfortable to others.

While I understand the show is pitched as intimate, I found the visuals so striking spaced throughout, that I wished there were more of them. The aesthetic was psychedelic, and almost hypnotic. It gave very strong "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" music video vibes. 

It goes without saying that Joseph Atkin's piano skills were absolutely phenomenal. There's a moment within the show where we just hear a piano solo from Joseph, and it really is utterly beautiful. It's so easy to get lost in the music.

The show is wonderfully written and performed, particularly the first half. But after the first half, I found it became jarring and quite disconnected, despite some of the heavy subjects being discussed. In the last 15 minutes or so, I found myself drifting off; it starts off a lot stronger than it finishes.

There's dialogue sporadically throughout, but I do wish there had been more. I felt the moments of dialogue were the times I connected most with Jessica, which is why I think I craved more. Jessica's wit, humour and charisma shine through brightly in these moments.

Overall, I did enjoy the performance, but I didn't feel completely blown away, and none of the songs have stayed in my mind. However, for a show that's just £5 to watch from the comfort of your home, it's definitely worth it to explore and support a new intimate show.

You can buy tickets to stream Scene Unseen for just £5, here: Scene Unseen Tickets

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