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Ordinary Days
The London Theatre Workshop
15th March 2014

★★★☆☆

The ensemble of Ordinary Days

Photography © Francis Lone

If you live in London, chances are, at some point, you've found being in a city this full of hustle and bustle just overwhelming. Now, I wouldn't swap this city for another, but the idea of being lost in plain sight in the big smoke is very relatable, and the inspiration behind Adam Gwon's 2007 musical, Ordinary Days. He plucks two pairs of people out of all of the confusion in New York and shows us their lives, what normal is to them.

Bringing up the comedy side, there's Deb (Olga-Marie Pratt), an angry grad school student who has lost her notes for her thesis, and Warren (Anton Tweedale), a geeky, Americanised version of Amelie Poulain. Having found Deb's scribblings, he believes this is a sign that the two of them are about to embark on some kind of magical adventure together. Equally but differently deluded is Jason (Oliver Watton), who has just moved in with his ice-cold girlfriend, Claire (Marcia Brown). Jason thinks his football flags will look great on her wall, but the only thing truly on there is the writing.

Gwon has called his musical Ordinary Days, so to an extent, you do have to expect something a little mundane. However, the plot has an unsatisfying conclusion in which Claire drops a deus ex machina revelation and goes from singing Gotta Get Out to I'll Be Here with only one song in between. Up until that point, we're convinced that Jason and Claire have irreconcilably grown apart - something that does happen in ordinary life to many couples - and as an audience, that's where we feel the show stops. Just as every Potter fan ignores the ridiculous epilogue that JK Rowling tacked on in book seven, anyone who enjoys Ordinary Days will strike the last two numbers from their memory, with the production ending at Rooftop Duet/Falling.

Anton Tweedale as Warren

Photography © Francis Lone

But any contrivances in the plot can hardly be blamed on the company, who do a fine job with the material at hand. None of the melodies are earworms, but there are quite a few witty lines, delivered with a punch. Musical director Thomas Lees provides support on the piano, delivering a heartfelt and enthusiastic performance but his playing can be a fraction too loud, given the singers aren't miked up.

Out of the four singers, Pratt and Tweedale certainly provide the more compelling performance, with Deb's constant fury a humorous contrast to Warren's childlike view of the world. Pratt has the edge, making us chuckle often before she even delivers a killer line, but Tweedale isn't that far behind, they're both highly entertaining. Again, it's nothing that Watton or Brown do to make them less memorable, but Gwon's writing is more at home in the comedic rather than dramatic.

This run of Ordinary Days marks the start of the London Theatre Workshop's new season, in their brand new venue above the Southern Cross pub. It's stylish performance space, clean, modern and urban - and therefore perfectly suited to a show set in New York. Designer Jonti Angel leaves very little is on stage by means of permanent set - some street signs in crisp, sans-serif fonts, and empty photo frames which not only fit well with Claire's home and the Met, but hint at milestones yet to be captured and framed as part of each character's life story. Director Ray Rackham uses the space well, with the four characters constantly rushing off and on stage using different exits, keeping up the frantic pace.

This won't be the highlight of the London Theatre Workshop's season - there's sometimes a reason people don't write about ordinary days. It's either too inconsequential or becomes forced in trying to make something of note. Saying that, Gwon largely misses those pitfalls, and buoyed by its humour, Ordinary days is a diverting if disposable 80 minutes.

Ordinary Days ran from 10th to 29th March 2014 at The London Theatre Workshop.

Nearest tube station: Fulham Broadway (District)



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