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A Song for Songs | Park Theatre

A Song of Songs, written and directed by Ofra Daniel, is a musical play set in Jerusalem following Tirzah as she begins to be overcome with love and sexual awakening. Using biblical language, references, and direct quotation from the poem 'A Song of Songs' from the Bible, Daniel has crafted an original story. Tirzah (Ofra Daniels) is pressured into a loveless marriage to a 20-year older fishmonger (Matthew Woodyatt), and remains confined by familial and societal pressures. However, when a romantic letter from a mystery poetic lover (Joaquin Pedro Valdes) arrives, Tirzah slowly breaks free, empowered by his love and embraces herself. 

The greatest strength of A Song of Songs is the music, which is written by Daniels, co-composed by Lior Ben-Hur, with collaboration by Ali Paris and Yuval Ron. The band are truly one of a kind and consist of Daniel Gouly (clarinet), Amy Price (violin), Ramón Ruiz (flamenco guitar), Ashley Blasse (upright bass), Ant Romero (percussion) and Matthew Woodyatt (accordion), who are present on stage throughout and move with the cast. Thomas F Arnold (musical supervisor) has created a musical masterpiece with the unique conversation between the live band members and the cast. The band and cast adapt to one another, improvising at every show and making every show unlike another, finding the right balance of emotion and melody. The music brings a wave of various musical styles together, and yet these all work well together, creating a mesmerising soundtrack. The music dictates the show, and is spell-binding and sweeps the audience away. The cast vocals are beautiful and powerful and are given songs that showcase this. 

Daniels navigates the show well and disappears into Tirzah with her passionate performance. Woodyatt has a limited role, yet his subtle performance is moving. A stand out performance comes from Valdes, who becomes one with the music and stunning the audience with an impressive show of his vocal range. With a short one song stint as an older aunt and his enthusiastic performance as an ensemble member, he's hilarious and provides the show with its much needed light hearted moments. His elegance, grace and charm in the role of the lover are brilliant, but unfortunately has a limited stage time. The ensemble (Laurel Dougall, Rebecca Giacopazzi, Shira Kravitz and Ashleigh Schuman) all shine in the show, illuminating and filling the stage. Doubling as women of Jerusalem and Tirzah's family, they're hilarious, energetic and wonderful. Kravitz and Schuman are particularly brilliant in their roles.

With beautiful flowing costumes (Marina Paz) and energetic choreography (Billy Mitchell), the songs are a a visual treat. Ranging from playful physical movement (depicting vines or fish), to intense choreography for the company, or Tirzah's evocative and frenzied movements, the show keeps the audience entertained.  However, as incredible as the songs are, they do not quite disguise the lack of development in the actual story. The plotline is quite thin and stretched out, and despite spending two hours with Tirzah, she still remains a mystery at best, unsympathetic and aloof at worst. Her husband, and her lover too, are characters we see frequently and discuss constantly, yet never really understand either. The plot twist at the end whilst dramatic, seems unnecessary, undermining an already shaky story. The story is easily overlooked in the strong presence of the overarching theme and moral message. The sensual nature of the show, along with the constraints of using the poem A Song of Songs, makes for a slightly awkward watch at points, but ultimately oozes confidence and liberation. 

The staging (Marina Paz) is simple, with an elevated white platform for the band to perform. A detachable staircase is moved by the cast to allow access to this platform during songs. The minimalistic approach works for the show as it relies primarily on story and song, and doesn't interact with the set. A vine covered ladder sits at a side for the Lover to enter and exit, adding to his romantic image. The lighting design (Aaron J Dootson) is meticulously well thought out, and transform the simplest of scenes into a grand moment. 

A Song of Songs boasts an impressive soundtrack, excellent cast and extremely talented musicians. The plot is shallow at times, yet is overshadowed by the music. A Song of Songs is currently playing at the Park Theatre until the 15th June - for more information and tickets, you can follow the link here.

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ (4*)

Gifted tickets in return for an honest review | photography by Pamela Raith


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