Mixtape, Royal Exchange Theatre's Young Company

It's a return guest visit on the blog today - my dad's been to another amazing show and couldn't resist sharing his review. Read on for the tale of a wonderful night at The Royal Exchange.

‘It’s theatre in the round, Jim, but not as we know it’

I’m a big fan of The Royal Exchange, Manchester and well used to sitting in a circle, with the players directly in front of me. But last night I was encircled by the cast, rather than the other way around. Because last night I went to see Mixtape – a new musical created and performed by the Young Company of this awesome theatre.
The Young Company has just won Stage School of the Year 2018 and it’s not hard to see why. It includes a range of young people, from 14 to 25 who all collaborated to produce what was an exceptional show.

I use the word show because the overall experience of last night is quite difficult to define. We entered the arena and it felt like we’d gained admission to a nightclub. Cast members were already in attendance and music was playing in the background as we stood around wondering just what was going to happen next. One of the cast came and had a chat with us, asking where we were from and how far we’d travelled.
Lights went down briefly and then the ‘real’ show began, this with a poetic monologue, followed by a pulsating song based around living in Manchester and being part of the hive. It’s fair to say that Manchester took centre stage in this production, which was in many ways a homage to the city and a celebration of its diverse community with its power to draw you in and make you feel that not only are you a part of it, but that you own a part of it too.

This was a theme which was picked up by many characters throughout the show and one couldn’t help but recall the sad events of last May, a time when Manchester demonstrated its togetherness, this time in adversity, with many brought together at that time through the poetry of Tony Welsh. Tony has apparently seen this show and given it a big thumbs-up.
So, what else happened in the 75-minute, no interval show? Well, there were some super songs, some marvellous monologues, some excellent encounters, some vibrant verses and some polished performances all round.

Some of the singing was sublime and much of the script was thought-provoking and deep. But it was all played out in an atmosphere of warmth, good humour and inclusivity, something which being in the round or perhaps even being surrounded, really helped to engender.
We laughed, we sang, we cried (well some of us did, but not so anyone else would notice), we even became part of a dance-off. And when the main show was over we were invited back in for the after-party, so we could chat to some of the members of the cast and crew.

Oh, what a night it was at the Royal Exchange. This was not just a celebration of Manchester, it was a celebration of young people and of creativity in general. And in amongst all of this I’ve learnt a brand-new word, sonder, and a brand-new movement, The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows.
Because it turns out that the name of the band in the show, The Sonders, was not just chosen at random. Sonder is defined in the above-named dictionary as the realisation that each random passer-by is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness.
And this was indeed what the show was all about.

In an ensemble piece I have to say that everyone played their part in making this such an enjoyable evening. As for stand-out performances, well Zoe Ndlovu’s voice is loaded with richness, Grace Collard sang very sweetly whilst playing her ukulele, Isah Levi-Roach did a fine rap in a duet with Zoe, and Charlie Shaw struck me as having lots of potential as a singer and an actor. Meanwhile Elli Kypriadi pulled the whole thing together, with a strong performance as narrator and general leader.
As for the beat of Manchester, well that was mainly provided by Aidan Feely, the son of a friend and the reason I ended up going to see this show in the first place. Nice work Aidan, and great monologue to boot.

The show ends this Saturday night and from what I hear, you might struggle to get a ticket. Word on the Manchester streets though, is that future performances might take place later in the year, this time potentially outdoors.

If I were you I’d keep those ears peeled – this show rocked!


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