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In Clay | Upstairs at the Gatehouse

In Clay, a new musical, has stepped into the spotlight at Upstairs at the Gatehouse following the success of its predecessor, Songs for a New World. With books and lyrics penned by Rebecca Simmonds and music composed by Jack Miles, this one-woman show, directed by Grace Taylor, has claimed its place, delivering an intimate and emotionally resonant performance.

Set against the backdrop of 1930s Paris, In Clay follows the life of Marie-Berthe Cazin, a woman who discovers her passion for ceramics and pottery, using this art form as a means to explore the intricacies of her relationships and art itself. Navigating through the complexities of love, life, and loss, the production offers a deeply personal journey within an intimate staging.

Rachael Ryan's gorgeous and detailed set design immerses the audience in a pottery studio, adorned with paintbrushes, canvases, ceramics, and clay. Each pot used throughout the show carries its own significance and meaning, with every element on stage adding to the atmosphere of creativity and exploration. Chris McDonnell's lighting design further enhances the ambience, complementing the set with finesse. The play of light and shadow mirrors the emotional highs and lows of Marie's journey, creating a visual treat that captivates the audience.

Rosalind Ford shines as Marie Berthe Cazin, delivering a masterclass in acting through song. With humour and determination, Ford effortlessly transitions between moments of levity and poignancy, captivating the audience with her impeccable portrayal. Her performance, coupled with Taylor's brilliant direction, infuses the storytelling with heart and authenticity. Ford's ability to convey Marie's inner turmoil and resilience is truly remarkable, drawing the audience into her world with every note sung and every line delivered.

The original songs seamlessly weave through the narrative, portraying Marie's evolving emotions and surroundings. Musical director and pianist Matt Herbet leads the four-piece band with gusto, lifting the production with stunning arrangements and orchestrations. The bluesy jazz motifs and melodies transport the audience to pre-war Paris, adding depth and intrigue to the drama. Simmonds and Miles' lyrics, composed of lyrical musical phrases and rhyming triplets, inject a dance-like quality into the music, further enriching the experience. It's refreshing to witness a new musical where the songs harmonise with the time-period and setting, enhancing the narrative's authenticity.

In Clay is a promising new musical brimming with heart and talent. It has evolved significantly since its debut at the Vault Festival, a testament to its growth and resonance. Serving as a reflection of life's ebb and flow, echoing the impermanence inherent in both art and existence, and underscored by the metaphor of Kintsugi, symbolising the beauty in imperfection and resilience. This stands as a testament to the power of storytelling and the resilience of the human spirit, inviting us to embrace our imperfections and celebrate the journey of self-discovery and change.

As a bonus, audiences can explore the In Clay: The Exhibition in the adjacent room, where they will encounter a collection of works by over twenty contemporary women artists who excel in the craft of clay. This exhibition not only adds an extra layer of depth to the overall experience but also underscores the power of art and its profound ability to connect people. Through the diverse pieces on display, viewers are invited to delve deeper into the themes of creativity, resilience, and self-expression explored in the musical, further enriching their understanding and appreciation of both the art form and the world we live in.

In Clay plays at Upstairs at the Gatehouse until 7th April. For information and tickets, follow this link here.


AD | gifted tickets in return for an honest review | photography by Felix Mosse


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