FIVER : Southwark Playhouse, London
Reviewed 4th July 2019 (preview performance)
Fiver is a brand new British musical by Alex Jame Ellison and Tom Lees. Following the story of a five pound note as it passes through the hands and pockets of Londoners, this new musical is certainly a novel idea and has some stand out moments which draws the audience in. Cleverly intertwining musical styles and narrative the audience is taken along on a journey with the fiver as we are introduced to a variety of characters and begin to find out the true value and worth of money to different people.
The multiple characters are performed by a small cast of 5: Luke Bayer, Dan Buckley, Aoife Clesham, Hiba Elchikhe and, writer himself, Alex James Ellison. Each performer is able to change characters quickly and smoothly, creating unique individual storylines and personalities. Dan Buckley’s vocals shine through as the homeless man at the opening of the show. At the beginning of Act 2 it is also the blend of his vocals matched with Luke Bayer’s that mix and work so well together. Luke Bayer manages to steal focus completely during the song ‘Every Year‘ as he wears his heart on his sleeve in an honest portrayal of grief. Aoife Clesham’s comic timing is fantastic and she is able to convincingly portray a huge range of characters. One of the most memorable being the bitter ex-girlfriend leaving a voicemail on her ex’s phone in ‘Press Hash to Re-record’ – a fantastically witty song. Hiba Elchikhe’s emotional portrayal of every single character is spot on and her vocals are clear and have a delicate-yet-powerful quality to them. ‘Whisper It To Me’ is a perfect example of this, as is her powerful performance in ‘Gotta Keep My Head Down‘. Last, but in no means least Alex James Ellison’s upbeat narration helps to move the story forward and the opening and closing song, ‘Change is Bringing Me Down’ is incredibly catchy.
The unique concept is clever and the mixture of characters is diverse. However, there are certainly moments that are perhaps not needed, or equally some that have too much time spent on them to little effect. The time shift between Act 1 and Act 2 feels unnecessary and throws the show off kilter as it only applies to one storyline. It almost feels like two shows merged into one. However, the fluidity and complexity of the characters and, indeed, the journey of the fiver is very well thought through and given a bit more focus could make a fantastic show.
Each song, by Alex James Ellison and Tom Lees, is enjoyable and the different styles benefit the show and help keep the pace moving. When the cast sing together, either in unison or as a round, each member of the cast compliments each other and finds their own voice and place within the group. Some of the stand out moments are the more sombre, emotional scenes and this production does a great job of having those tender scenes and then managing to counteract them with comic moments without taking away any meaning or importance.
The simple set by Justin Williams is used well, although at points some of the props feel excessive. The small band situated directly behind the stage work tirelessly, particularly given the heat in the tight space and Alex James Ellison’s guitar accompaniment is a nice added touch as his character watches the action from amongst the audience.
Fiver definitely has potential. Filled with interesting characters and diverse storylines it is an interesting concept and is certainly unusual. The book needs tightening, but the songs are all enjoyable and add to the characters. The stellar cast work tirelessly to ensure that each character is as individual as their storylines. They are clearly committed to the show and their roles and really make this production memorable. So if you’re after something different to see this July then you could do far worse than taking a trip down to the Southwark Playhouse to see Fiver.
Fiver is playing at the Southwark Playhouse until the 20th July. For tickets and information click here.