The Royal Exchange, Manchester; Wednesday 11th April, 2018
Fresh from recently winning The Stage magazine’s School Of The Year award, the Royal Exchange Theatre’s Young Company presents their new musical, Mixtape – a theatrical self-portrait of life as seen through the eyes of the young people in Manchester.
Mixtape as a show is to theatre exactly what mixtapes are to music: this is an organic synthesis of differing artistic forms that merge together to create an aggregated storytelling experience: part play, part musical, even partly a dance-off involving the whole audience. Set in a nightclub-style environment (complete with strobe lighting and awkward teenage glances at each other), audience members are stood centrally on the dance floor as the performers deliver their pieces, each moving freely in and around the assembled crowd.
Playing on the fact that Manchester resides at the confluence of three rivers, the plot loosely follows three main characters as they share their very different experiences of life in the city: a young college student who fled Somalia as a child; a young woman desperate to shed the stereotype of her day job working in a fried chicken shop; and a young man from a broken family struggling with anxious uncertainties over his sexuality.
Three separate stories are told, each relayed through acted performance but even more so through an accompanying medley of original songs. Given the dancefloor / nightclub setting, the overall experience drifts between conventional performance theatre to something more akin to eavesdropping on someone else’s night out.
Eventually the three stories merge, uniting the characters, the plot, and this show as a whole. Mixtape is theatrical performance delivered through fresh and innovative means, ultimately it lifts the lid on urban youth culture to tantalisingly reveal the characters and inspirations that are silently sculpting this city from within.
|Visual pleasure||The exact ambience and visuals of a student nightclub, with the performance being played out over slightly raised platforms and stages to allow everyone to get a good view.||3|
|Auditory pleasure||Excellent live musical performances involving multiple members of this multi-talented cast. Songs and lyrics were all written to be relevant to each story being told.||5|
|Architecture & Theme||The telling of three separate stories took a short while to understand conceptually – only at the end did the connection between them become clear. Eventually, as an overall performance, it worked well.||3|
|Artistic delivery||Strong, heartfelt performances from the lead characters, combining singing, acting, and musical delivery.||4|
|Overall impact||An enjoyable show that seemed to put across several points: confusion surrounding growing up; anger at the establishment; and frustration at feeling trapped.||3|
|0||Detrimental – This aspect of the performance was so bad that it made the overall experience worse|
|1||Weak – This aspect of the performance was poor|
|2||Adequate – This aspect of the performance was perfectly acceptable, though nothing special|
|3||Good – This aspect of the performance was above average, it pleased in some way|
|4||Excellent – This aspect of the performance was much better than normal, it was impressive|
|5||Awe-inspiring – This aspect of the performance was exceptional, new boundaries were pushed.|