Sunday, July 21

RENT – North West Theatre Arts Company

Sick! Festival presents RENT as a part of their shows and events for 2024, they’re noted to face up the complexities of mental health and physical health. They state that they present an outstanding international arts programme, whilst exploring themes through many art forms and commission powerful, innovative and engaging work by artists across Manchester. Sick! Festival has grown and evolved since 2013 and is guided by communities and lived experiences of others whilst tackling sensitive and emotive issues.

Directed by Prab Singh and Choreographed by Katie Gough, Assistant Choreographer Tempany Windsor, Musical Director Beth Singh and Associate Musical Director Ross Johnson have produced the latest Sick! Festival’s rendition of ‘Rent’.

Set in the East Village of New York City, ‘Rent’ is about falling in love, finding your voice, and living for today. Winner of the Tony Award for Best Musical and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, ‘Rent’ has become a pop culture phenomenon. ‘Rent’ follows a year in the life of a group of penniless young artists and musicians struggling to survive and create in New York’s Lower East Side, under the shadow of HIV/AIDS.

Johnathon Larson’s 1996 rock musical focus is around the interconnected lives of three couples: Roger (Anthony Horricks) and Mimi (Tempany Windsor), Maureen (Melissa Grimes) and Joanne (Maria Collins), Tom Collins (Billy Morrison) and Angel (Mark Barnes-Moran). At the heart of the musical is an exploration of identity within LGBTQ + Community, encompassing conversations on drug addiction, financial pressure, and grief within the context of the AIDS crisis at the end of the 20th century. Mark (Szymon Tomczyk) is an aspiring filmmaker who narrates the show as he films the lives of his friends.

The creative team have done an amazing job on the set design, creating the perfect staging for the cast to work with. The lighting, however, was extremely low and some of the scenes were hard to see from the row I was sat on. Also, the sound was very hit and miss with microphones intermittently going off making it hard to hear the vocals over the live band, but it was opening night so I am sure this will improve over the run.

Excellent casting of Mark as Tomczyk delivered a sterling performance with his strong vocals and acting skills. The strongest coupling was that of Horricks and Windsor as they gave the audience such authenticity of the characters displaying the courage, vulnerability and truthfulness of Roger and Mimi. The harmonies and vocals of this pairing were outstanding and their duets just magnificent to listen too, huge applause to them both as they gave a first-class performance both vocally and in their creative interpretation of the characters.

Morrison and Barnes-Moran played the roles of Collins and Angel, with a rollercoaster of emotions within the script. Angel is iconic and pinnacle to the plot of ‘Rent’ and can be a challenging role for any accomplished actor, as you must display the character in all his/her kindness, affection, and hope on every occasion he/she appeared on stage, personally I did not find the characteristics required for this role in Barnes-Moran and the role fell quite flat. However, Morrison made up for the pairing with his sterling vocals and pitch perfect tones and was a pleasure to listen too during his numbers.

Collins and Grimes interpretation of Joanne and Maureen was a strong one as the repertoire required for their duets are extremely challenging especially in ‘Over the Moon’ and ‘Take Me or Leave Me’ and they tackled it together extremely well. Singularly noteworthy was Collins ‘Tango Maureen’ – this lady has the most phenomenal voice, and this was displayed throughout the performance with her incredible vocal range which was equally matched by her magnificent stage presence. Collins would match any professional leading lady with her impressive, polished performance as Joanne Jefferson.

It is clear that every cast member has put their heart and soul into the performance, and I would love to mention each and every person, but please be assured that your role was as significant as the leads and you all did a spectacular job in your delivery, ‘Rent’ isn’t the easiest repertoire with its demanding vocal range and intricate script. Sick! festival and cast have created a sterling performance of ‘Rent’ with one of the most impressive harmonies I have witnessed when the whole cast sang ‘Rent’, ‘Santa Fe’, ‘La Vie Boheme’, ‘Contact’ and of course the infamous ‘Seasons of Love’.

Well done to all involved, and I wish you well for the rest of the run. RENT runs until Saturday the 11th of May 2024, I would recommend that you try and get a ticket before it is completely sold out as this is a great execution of ‘Rent’ in all its glory from Sick! Festival.

Reviewer: Katie Leicester

Reviewed: 7th May 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.