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The Theatreguide.London Review

Next Thing You Know
Garden Theatre   October 2020

There’s a jaunty cheerfulness to the rhythm of Cunningham and Salzman’s musical Next Thing You Know, being performed at The Eagle pub’s open-air Garden Theatre. The lyrics have a simple safe clarity, with nothing grand, even when the music is yearning for some sentimental torch song finish.

But they lack the freedom of the pop concert, where the performers can shift subject and style from song to song. Instead, they are tied to a slight story and four unconvincing cartoon characters that offer no opportunity for musical complexity or variation in style.

This New York four are coming to the end of their twenties and wondering what the future may hold for them. They sing about smoking, drinking, hangovers, and ‘bonking.’

Darren’s (Nathan Shaw) pick-up line with a woman is ‘Excuse me. I just wanted you to know. You have legs up to your chin.’ This gets a laugh and establishes him as the ‘ineffectual heterosexual’, but it isn't incredibly believable.

Neither is the contrasting Luke (Callum Henderson), described as the ‘emotional werewolf’, who just takes women to bed for brief sex, before spending the night telling them all about himself. When Darren’s off-on partner Waverly (Bessy Ewa), an actor, gets a job, she asks if he is ‘sure you want to be with a working stiff.’

Lisa (Amelia Atherton) has spent too long failing to find a same-sex partner in New York, so has decided to move to California in search of her ‘dream girl.’

If it wasn't for the sexual encounters they claim to be having off-stage, we might imagine them as a group of thirteen-year-olds in search of adolescence.

All this drags the music into an amiable similarity that might make you sleepy, but for the dramatic tension of the audience seating, which, being so close together probably had more than one person pensively pondering CVID restrictions. Among the six people each sitting half a metre away from me was another reviewer, who anxiously spoke to the usher about safety.

But no worry, the government has probably forgotten theatres exist and by the time the police give the theatre a check, the rules will have changed to say it's okay as long as everybody touches their toes before leaving.

Keith McKenna

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Review of Next Thing You Know - Garden Theatre 2020

 

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