Canal Street Online Manchester

Rent at Hope Mill Theatre

Rent at Hope Mill Theatre

In the programme notes the executive director of Hope Mill Theatre William Whelton writes, 

“How do you measure a year in the life? The famous lyric from one of musical theatre’s most iconic songs, seasons of love. Well, if this year is anything to go by, it might include going into lockdown, clapping for the NHS and key workers or the feeling of joy of being able to visit loved ones again.“ 

We can now definitely add to this list going into lockdown again and sadly delivering a performance that is your official opening night as well as your closing night.

As the cast walk on together with Joseph Houston, artistic director of Hope Mill Theatre, Houston delivers an emotionally charged impact of 2020 and thank you of support address. You could feel the emotion in the room and as I sat there listening, reflected that THIS is what live performance is about. Being in the same room as others, experiencing something collectively and sharing an experience. I have missed this, and Houston and Whelton’s passion of keeping the arts alive and doing everything they can to, safely, still create moments for this art form is to be honoured and applauded. 

RENT of course is no stranger to the LGBTQI audience. Set in 1993 New York, the backdrop is a city confronted by rising levels of homelessness and the emergence of AIDS. Loosely based on the 1896 opera La Boehme, the story of RENT remains ever relevant, with love and loss being the life blood that runs through the production.

What immediately strikes you about this production, directed by the talented Luke Sheppard, is the cast exploding with their talents in the opening number of RENT. The dynamic chorography and the stunning visual this creates as the cast moves as one throughout the numbers created a wonderful visual. Choreographer Tom Jackson Greaves has created sequences of movements that are visually extremely stunning. RENT relies on relationships and sexual chemistry and the way he uses motion and form to depict this is just beautiful.

The cast collectively bring this group of friends together with such passion and fire that for the two and a half hour moments you have comfort knowing that you are part of their gang! The vocal magic this cast has makes you care for the characters immensely, which is not easy, especially as some of the characters (not the performers!) can come across as a bit whiney! From the edgy rock contributions of Tom Francis and Maiya Quansah-Reed as the ill-fated lovers Roger and Mimi to the passionate storytelling of the outsider Mark played by Blake Patrick Anderson, you know from the start this cast is going to impress. This is followed by Alex Thomas-Smith who portrays the drag queen Angel and makes acrobatic and tabletop dancing in heels look like the simplest thing ever, supplemented with the comedic and superb portrayal of Joanne and Maureen played by Jocasta Almgill and Millie O’Connell respectively. But our tears are definitely saved for Dom Hartley-Harris and his portrayal of Collins. The vocal range and emotional clarity he conjures up during his lament of I’ll Cover You, ensures there is no dry eye in the house. 

For more information about how to purchase a ticket for the online performances, head over to https://hopemilltheatre.co.uk/. But be quick, I can’t imagine the tickets won’t be around for much longer.

Published: 5-Nov-2020 (6039)

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