The delightful garden of St Paul’s Church (The Actors Church) is the location for this new musical written by Zoe Woodruff playing as part of Iris Theatre’s summer festival.
The story tells of an up-and-coming folk musician Beth (Elinor Peregrin) who, one night, plays in an unremarkable bar in unnamed provincial town where she comes across the barmaid Ellen (Kathryn Tindall) who writes songs but never performs them. Beth persuades Ellen to share some of her song book and then perform with her. This leads to a professional partnership, which in turn, develops into a personal relationship. But this is the early 2000’s and gay relationships in the performing arts are frowned on and force a choice between their professional and personal lives.
Kathryn Tindall wrote the music and the lyrics, and she and Peregrin perform them, accompanying themselves on acoustic guitars. The music was a pleasant folk idiom and both performers had good singing voices and the ability to act well while playing their instruments. The storyline was helped along by recorded phone calls and news reports. The setting, depicted the bar where the two met, had a small stage on one side and the bar on the other with the audience on two sides.
According to the show publicity the intention was to illustrate issues still relevant to the LGBTQIA+ community in the arts: a cause which is clearly important to the author and those involved in the production. The storyline, compressing five years into a single act of 70 minutes, was uncomplicated, and was a platform for demonstrating the very considerable musical talents of the two actors, although, unlike in many other musicals, the plot was sustained up until the end with a conclusion which was moving without descending into a Hollywood stereotype.
This is unlikely to be a play which sets the musical theatre world on fire, but talented artistes, performing pleasing music, in a lovely setting on a summers evening: what is there not to like?
Playing until 17th July https://iristheatre.com/event/the-red-side-of-the-moon/
Reviewer: Paul Ackroyd
Reviewed: 13th July 2021
North West End UK Rating: ★★★