THEATRE: La bohème at Kings Head Theatre

Written by: Sophie Taylor

Adam Spreadbury-Maher and Becca Marriott’s La bohème will give you chills on a hot September night. This is Fringe theatre? Someone pick my tear soaked jaw up off the floor.

It’s a particularly humid September evening and sweat is wicking out of every pore with every foolish decision I’ve made tonight. Oh, you want a large red wine with that leather jacket you’re wearing? Coming right up sweatso. Just as my Merlot and I start simmering to the boil, it’s time for curtains up downstairs at the Kings Head Theatre in Islington.

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Except there are no curtains and we’re thrust into a circle around the set: a dirty Dalston flat on Christmas Eve. We’ve gatecrashed their evening like the sweaty ghost of sweaty present. Ralph (an earnest and rousing Ralph Kimble) and Mark (the vigorous baritone Thomas Humphreys) are freezing. Their boiler’s on the blink and they’re burning Ralph’s play script for heat. As the director and writer has mentioned in our interview it’s a personal take on Puccini’s classic, I wonder if this isn’t autobiographical in parts. Which makes for some punch-in-the-stomach moments throughout. It’s a surprisingly clean window in to what life is like right now for young adults struggling to keep afloat in a post Brexit, collapsing economic climate and spotlighting the very real issues of addiction and depression which are on the rise.

Oh Ralph I must inform you of something most important / My balls are frozen.
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Within the first lines though we’re cackling. The cast are adept at delivering naughty one liners and keeping you on your toes, trying to keep up with nimble turns from devilishly funny to heart wrenching tragedy. Honey Rouhani’s Musetta is a hoot, exuding pure and unrelenting raunch that if you sit in particular front row seats, you will experience first hand. As it very much were.

By Act III the fella on my left was leaning so far forward on his seat I thought he was about to fall on top of Ralph. Then I realised I was doing the same and hadn’t actually breathed out since the interval. Becca Marriott’s Mimi is incredibly raw. A soprano that’ll send you to the rafters, she can instantly reduce it back to a hushed East London speech, desperately asking members of the audience for guidance.

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My friend later tells me that throughout the whole of Act IV the lady behind her was gripping her shoulders from behind, mistaking the fabric of her jacket for the chair back. She found it very comforting in the circumstances. There were many times in the final moments I wanted to make it all stop, run out through the set window and pretend it wasn’t all a very real situation for many.  But I was stuck to my seat.

I left the auditorium a chilled, teary mess. Spreadbury-Maher and Marriot’s truthful, witty libretto will give you goosebumps on a hot September night.

La bohème is currently running ’til Saturday 8th October 2016, Tuesday – Saturday, 7.00pm. Sunday Matinees, 3.00pm [excludes 1st, 4th, 6th and 8th September]

Tickets available online or from the box office, King’s Head Theatre, 115 Upper Street, London, N1 1QN 

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The Kings Head Theatre needs £100,000 just to keep afloat every year. They are a Fringe Theatre and unfortunately receive no money from the bar upstairs. You can help keep the Kings Head alive and well with a donation where you can even choose the Key To The Dressing Room subscription. Hey hey hey. Get your mind out of the gutter, you.

Special mention to fantastic cellist, Alison Holford and the hard working members of the creative team:

Composer Giacomo Puccini

Musical Director Panaretos Kyriatzidis

Designer Becky-Dee Trevenen

Lighting Designer Nic Farman

Associate Director David Spencer

Stage Manger Christine Collins

Photography: Andreas Grieger

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