Lucy Evans, Online Features Editor, reviews Shotgun Theatre’s production of Company.
Shotgun Theatre took to the Northcott stage from the 17th to the 19th of February to perform Steven Sondheim’s classic musical comedy Company. The plot follows 35-year-old Bobby and his married friends as he navigates his feelings towards marriage. The opening scene, where Bobby’s friends throw him a surprise birthday party, introduces the play’s main motif and showcases the cast’s skilful use of the stage, as the married couples appear around Bobby’s apartment in a clever montage.
While sometimes sad or melancholic, Company is a comedy at its core. There is joy to be found in Shotgun’s rendition of Sondheim’s classic: almost every scene is accompanied by the audience’s laughter. Emma Bate’s and Oisin Maguire’s comedic portrayal of the love-hate relationship between Sarah and Harry during “The Little Things You Do Together” was particularly successful. The lyrics contrast with the married couple’s behaviour in a sarcastic but witty scene.
Another standout comedic episode is Bobby’s interaction with Joanne and David, portrayed by the wonderful Scarlett Cole and Jack Barry. They cleverly handle the difficulties of acting intoxicated while simultaneously infusing the scene with humour that doesn’t seem forced or cringe-worthy. Comedy blends with crucial and raw discussions about marriage, mirroring the production’s overall tone.
Furthermore, Shotgun’s commitment to gender-blind casting continually subverts the audience’s expectations. Company’s main character Bobby, for example, is played by Alice Orlik. In the programme, the show’s director India Dillon states that this “opened all the roles to people of varying identities and meant that there were no barriers in terms of who they could audition for”. Dillon’s vision adapts Company for the modern world, rejuvenating a show that is now over half a century old.
The beauty of Company is that every cast member has their moment on stage: each couple in Bobby’s life has a dedicated scene, allowing each cast member the opportunity to display their talent. Although every member of the cast makes the most of this, Zoë Moran’s portrayal of Joanne really stands out for me. Her rendition of “The Ladies that Lunch” is vocally outstanding and I particularly enjoyed the cynical and judgmental tone that Moran uses. Her performance received a loud cheer from the audience and was a memorable moment from the night.
Shotgun’s commitment to gender-blind casting continually subverts the audience’s expectations
Company features one of the most famous (and difficult) songs in musical theatre, “Getting Married Today”, which narrates Amy’s panicked announcement on her wedding day that she will not get married. Poppy Hill brilliantly characterises the crazed, anxious Amy throughout the show, with her mannerisms peppering the background of every scene. She pulls off the notoriously difficult fast-paced song with desperation and anxiety as the audience hangs off of her every word.
The show reaches its comedic peak in a carefully crafted and intimate scene between April (portrayed by Rafael Harris) and Bobby. April is a comedic constant throughout the show; Harris’ use of comedic timing, however, makes April more than just a caricature. The gender-blind casting adds to Dillon’s questioning of “what happens to an audience when they hear the pronouns ‘he’ but see ‘she’ on stage”.
Shotgun Theatre puts on an energetic performance of Company, despite the show’s infamous difficulty. Their modern take on it engages with the audience’s surroundings, and I for one will look forward to seeing what they produce next.