I recently saw a production of the musical ‘Working’ at Southwark Playhouse, south of the river in London. This was the European premier of the musical, following success across the USA, with writing by well-known theatre names including Stephen Schwartz (Wicked) and Lin-Manuel Miranda (In the Heights [see my blog post here], and Hamilton). The whole story of the musical, particularly the characters and their dialogue, is based on the book of interviews by Studs Terkel: ‘Working: People Talk About How They Feel About What They Do’. (What a title!).
This musical performs a range of people from different jobs and backgrounds – a topic that is becoming an increasingly discussed with arguments surrounding jobs given to migrants, both in the UK and US. However, I agree with the idea around this musical, that it’s something that should be explored, and theatre is a perfect way to do just that! The cast was brilliant in this production, with a group of six older, experienced actors in contrast and six young performers, who had just graduated (and were all very good!) I really liked this contrast of experience and new. To me it really emphasised another overarching theme of the musical: passing on working knowledge from the old to the young.
There was a great range of songs to go with the range of work, from slow and sad, to fast and funny. A lot of them were beautifully produced and performed, with a live band too. Lin-Manuel’s first song was particularly easy to recognise, written in a similar style to In The Heights with internal rhyming and a fast pace that made it stand out from the songs written by Schwartz and others.
The stand-out element on the performance for me was the choreography. The young performers were incredible with their energy and very well-timed movements – plus they looked so happy and excited to be performing! Their movements were especially prominent within such a small stage space, with the thrust-stage design. This was helped by the clever staging that gave space for actors to sit on-stage all the time they weren’t directly performing (which I always like), and areas to the side for the actors to complete costume changes.
This was a really good production – it may not be a big grand show found on the West-End, but it was extremely well performed and beautiful to watch (the set, the costumes, the sound…), even at pre-views stage when I saw it. I would very much recommend this show – and because it’s not West-End it’s a lot cheaper too!
Photos from: http://southwarkplayhouse.co.uk/show/working/