The Beautiful Game – Review

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The Beautiful Game: The Other Palace

Reviewed 17th August 2018

★★★★

The Beautiful Game, with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and book and lyrics by Ben Elton, is being performed for just 4 nights at The Other Palace. The National Youth Music Theatre, who have been producing high quality theatre for more than 40 years, have put together some of their finest young talent to revive the show. Focusing on an under 21’s football team and their girlfriends, The Beautiful Game tells the story of ordinary people from both sides of the religious divide during the 1960s troubles in Belfast. With tensions rising, will they follow their heart or head?

Even though the musical has a slightly slow start it builds tension and drama throughout. Despite the performers young age (ranging from 15-21) the hard-hitting story is performed with conviction. Director, Hannah Chissick has not shied away from the controversial aspects of the show and throughout the production the cast grow and develop. Given their young ages, the emotions shown from the principle cast are brilliant. During the second act, in particular, the actors do a fantastic job of showing the tension felt in Ireland during this time.

The choreography, by Matt Cole, may not be the slickest or cleanest but is performed passionately. It is very modern and is certainly an innovative way of staging some of the scenes. Director, Hannah Chissick makes some brilliant staging choices, with the staging of ‘God’s Own Country‘ being a particular high point of the show.

The talented cast certainly are destined to be on stage as they pursue their careers in the performing arts. Mary, played by Aliza Vakil, is superb. Her vocal technique is brilliant and her commitment to the character, especially the moving and mature acting in the latter stages of the show, show true star potential. ‘If This Is What We’re Fighting For’ is a highlight of the show and Vakil’s command of the stage during this is brilliant. Paul French catches the eye from the beginning of the show as the joker, over-animated character of Daniel. However, it is Ned Costello’s dramatic acting as Thomas that really impresses. Whilst his accent may need some work, his acting through song and ability to show the characters complex journey is fantastic. Reuben Browne also gives a stellar performance as main character John. All of the young performers put on a show of professional quality.

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s score is a good mix of rousing Irish anthems and hard-hitting ballads. As with many Lloyd Webber musicals there are lots of reprisals, but in this case it works well. Ben Elton’s lyrics capture the feeling of the Irish youngsters and the issues they face and work well with the score. The talented band, who are aged between just 14 and 22, are more than capable of playing the complicated score.

The National Youth Music Theatre’s production of The Beautiful Game certainly sets the bar high for the young performers starting out in their careers. A great nights entertainment and lots of new stars to keep your eye on for the future. If this is a glimpse into just some of the talent to come then the West End and future of musical theatre is in safe hands.

The Beautiful Game plays at The Other Palace until 18th August. With two shows remaining you can find out more and buy tickets by clicking here.

This review was originally written for and published by LondonTheatre1.

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