Rating: ★★★★
Venue: Phoenix Arts Club, London
Cast: Bradley Hawkes, Samuel Bushell, Renan Teodoro, Álvaro Aragonez, Natalia Espana, Ainy Medina, Lois-Grace Atkins, Faith Holden, Olivia O’Connor, Viittoria Ferrario, Abi Kirkwood and Samantha Allison 

Join us for The Actory’s debut musical. Do not miss the legendary, multi-award-winning and ground-breaking rock musical RENT. This exhilarating landmark musical tells the thrilling story of a group of impoverished young artists struggling to survive in New York City’s East Village in the thriving days of Bohemian excess.

The multi-award winning musical RENT is back in London!

RENT is one of my favourite musicals, so I was ecstatic when I heard it was returning to London. I walked into the Phoenix Arts Club, and I immediately felt like we were transported to NYC in the 90's. It was a club, but the bold string lights and graffiti décor immediately set the scene. 

The music of RENT is iconic, and I loved this production’s performance of them. “Tango: Maureen” was a standout for me. The whole number just made me smile. “I’ll Cover You” had me in tears, as it always does. “La Vie Boheme” is my favourite song from the show, and was a highlight performance of the production.

I have a love hate relationship with the staging of the show. It was clear that Charlotte Oetegenn wanted the audience to be immersed in the world of RENT, and that goal was definitely met. Sets and prop pieces were all throughout the room, and the cast used every playing space they could - even the train running underneath, which I know is unintentional, but reminded me of the Metro. It was exciting never knowing where the performers were coming from, and that kept me engaged throughout. 

With all of that said, I don’t think they used the space as much as they could have. A lot of the show was based towards one end, and if you were near the other end like I was, it was a struggle to see anything. There were a few scenes where I gave up trying to watch and just focused on listening. I wish they played more in the centre of the stage so everyone could see. 

What took away from the show for me was technical issues with microphones. There were several points throughout the show where the microphones were either off or too low to hear the performer. “Seasons of Love”, which is the most recognisable song of the show, was let down by one of the actors' mics not being on. There were too many instances where I was wondering what the performer had just said instead of enjoying the show. 

Despite the technical issues, the cast were amazing. Bradley Hawkes (Michael Cohen) gave a standout performance as the lead role, especially in his performance of “Halloween”. Renan Teodoro (Tom Collins) has an amazing voice, and I was captivated by his performance every time he was on stage. Faith Holden (Maureen Jones) had me laughing so hard during “Over the Moon”, and her dynamic with Vittoria Ferrario (Joanne Jones) was my favourite of the couples. Overall, this was a great ensemble cast. Each performer made sure that their character stood out and was an integral part of the story. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this performance of RENT. The immersive atmosphere truly made me feel like I was actually in New York City. My only wish is that I could’ve seen and heard every scene because what I could see and hear was fantastic. It amazes me that they only rehearsed this show one day a week! The cast were the highlight of the show, and I would see the production again for them.

You can find out more about this production of RENT, here.

Review by Becca

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