The Turbine Theatre’s production of “No Limits” is a delightful song cycle that manages to convey the essence of its characters within the tight constraints of the format. While the songs could benefit from a bit more depth and realism, the show is a worthwhile experience for anyone looking for an entertaining night out.
It’s very tricky to write a successful song cycle. And it comes with many pitfalls that musicals don’t have to worry about. You only get just under 5 minutes to introduce a character, and their story and make the audience care about them. Something which usually takes a good 60-90 min in a classic musical format to do. In a song cycle like “No Limits”, it’s really all about storytelling. Instead of one long narrative, you get immersed in multiple short ones, all through the 80-minute run time.
Sam Thomas creates a fun, touching set of stories, which cover such a broad set of topics, that it almost becomes universal for audiences of any age group (well, maybe not kids – this show is way too spicy and kinky at times to show it to kids under 14-15 years old in my opinion). We hear stories varying from tales of a “perfect life” social media pressure, a one-night stand story, through deep family connections, falling in love and even finding out that your partner is cheating on you. It’s a bit like a box of Celebrations – it’s a proper mix but even if you find a song you can’t fully relate to, in 3 minutes there will be something new popping up anyways. (it comes in both straight and LGBTQ+ flavours together, in case you were wondering)
The movement on stage is excellent, particularly the creative use of boxes which are constantly passed between the cast and reveal more and more fun props. I have to especially praise the tastefully choreographed 1-night stand scene, which adds a layer of sensuality without being too explicit – absolutely loved the modern dance vibe to it (fantastic work by the Movement Director Rhys Wilkinson). The show also benefits from its use of props, as the actors constantly hold, play with, or hide behind them, adding to the natural feel of the performance.
The strength of the show lies in its fun and comedic sketches, which work particularly well given the time limitations of the format (the song opening the second act, as well as the story of 2 ladies finding out their man is cheating on them and unite to give him a lesson must be my 2 favourites from the show). I think it’s mostly because you don’t need to understand someone’s personality deeply, to laugh at them or their jokes. The serious stories are a bit more challenging to execute in this format, that’s for sure.
While the songs are well-composed, they stick to classic themes of love and abandonment, with a tendency towards clichés. The characters are strong and brave, ready to take on whatever life throws at them. As inspiring as they are, I felt like there was a lack of reality and normality in their experiences, with every character seemingly able to solve their issues within the time of one song, or by finding sudden help of strength in a particular thing (even if it’s watching “Grey’s Anatomy”). I was hoping for a song from someone who can’t fix their issues alone, maybe speaks to a doctor or a therapist and openly asks for help – but unfortunately, either I haven’t picked up a narrative like that or it was not present.
The quality of the singing is top-notch, and the show is an enjoyable experience from start to finish. The actors/singers set the bar of the vocal performances incredibly high. Natalie May Paris’s (the original Jane Seymour in Six The Musical) vocal performance was a tour-de-force and left the audience utterly spellbound. Her emotional depth and nuance added an extra layer of complexity to the songs, elevating them beyond their simple themes. Mary Moore (#funemployed) showcased her impressive vocal range, effortlessly moving between high and low notes with ease, and her control was impeccable, with each note perfectly pitched and flawlessly delivered. But my absolute favourite and a huge surprise was Owen Clayton (#romantic): whether singing a ballad or belting out a more uptempo number, their performance was consistently powerful and emotive, eliciting a strong emotional response from the audience.
Overall, the London Turbine Theatre’s production of “No Limits” is a solid effort that demonstrates the power of music and performance to convey the complexities of the human experience. If ever we get to enjoy this performance in a format of a cast recording – I will be the first in line to get it 🙂
Photos in the article and thumbnail are credited to Danny Kaan