"The Choir of Man" immerses the audience from the very second you walk into the theatre. You are invited to join in: grab a beer in the bar on the stage, in the aisles, or in your seat. Beer is available everywhere, and audience members join the performers on stage in a roaring pub sing-along.
The play is based around the idea of home ‘wherever that might be’, which every audience member can relate to: whether they are a pub person or not. It also dove into themes of men’s mental health, the power of friendship and the slow demise of the village pub disappearing after Covid 19. I felt the production was (music and beer-wise) very much aimed at middle-aged men, and yet the cast succeeded in keeping the crowd of all ages engaged. It seemed like quite an unusual show to see in the West End – it gave me the vibe of a smaller-scale talent show.
Despite no prevailing plot, the character’s backstories and individual performances were enough to keep you entertained. Each character is very different, cleverly depicted and surprisingly sentimental. Ben Norris opens the performance as the narrator, connecting the audience to every contrasting character with a back story, from the ‘Secretly Shy’, and ‘Restlessly Romantic’ to the ‘Self-appointed King of Banter’ or ‘More Beer Than Man’.
What made this production truly shine were the mega-talented, energy-bursting actors. Their magnificent voices blended effortlessly together while at the same time each voice offering something different. The songs and mash-ups, varied from Adele’s ‘Hello’ to Avicii’s ‘Wake me up, all done exceptionally well despite being hard songs to live up to. A voice that stood out was swinging Lucas Koch in the booming “The Impossible Dream”. The performers were not afraid to go off-script and took every chance to include audience member participation.
The highlight of the show was Jordan Oliver’s mesmerising tap routine that not even 42nd Street could beat! He commanded the stage dancing on tables, counters, and all over the stage.
The sets depicted a typical pub – a huge bar counter with exotic wallpaper, brightly coloured stained glass, tables, chairs, stools and a piano. The space was fully used as improvised performance platforms: from the floors, tables, bar and boxes, the actors effortlessly leapt from scene to scene. The movement was carefully choreographed to make it appear impromptu and unchallenging (which it surely wasn’t!). The lighting was dark and dingy, reflecting the pub-like atmosphere, and used well, with various changing colours displayed throughout.
Although the show was very enjoyable (especially if you were as drunk as the audience was on this night), it became rather repetitive – with a similar structure of songs and the same messages recited over and over again. At some points, it seemed like the audience members were just searching for a quick laugh – which in a way, have lost the sentimental factor of the production. Some scenes seemed a little bit too risky – ‘Under the Bridge’ was performed as the actors peed into a urinal. It was meant to be funny but to me seemed just tasteless – no matter how good the song was.
“The Choir of Man” is not a traditional night at the theatre. It seems to me like a show perfect for non-theatregoers. Although this production was not particularly exciting for me, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to get your dad to the theatre – with lots of beer and laughs!
“The Choir of Man” is playing at the Arts Theatre until February 5th 2020
Get your tickets here https://www.choirofmanwestend.com/