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Street Songs: A Busker’s Tale | Golden Goose Theatre

Street Songs: A Busker’s Tale is written by Brett Snelgrove and is told from the perspective of a grieving son who has recently lost his dad to cancer. Jamie (Ollie West) takes to the streets to honour his father's legacy by playing an inherited setlist with just a guitar to hand. This is where he meets Charlie (Evie Joy Wright), a seasoned bucket-drum busker who feels Jamie is overstepping on her turf. Struggling to have influence on the public around them or their wallets, they form an unlikely bond to tackle this world.


Before the play started, we were introduced to director Lawrence Carmichael, who encouraged the audience to lean into the interactive nature of the show. Those who sat in the front row of the thrust auditorium knew that they would be the most frequent victim of this from the envelopes filled with coins on their seats. We were even hinted towards the notion that “drummers always earn more,” a not-so-subtle nod to our expectation as participants. It made for a welcomed change to be informed of our level of interaction and thankfully, Carmichael was true to his implication and the interaction was no more than tossing change into an open guitar case. The actors even joined in with the gimmick, winking and playing with the audience to get more out of them.


The play was structured around two worlds - the real world, where Jamie and Charlie are busking, and another world, where time does not exist, and Jamie addresses the audience to talk about his dad. Every time we travel back to the latter, West does a superb job of reeling the audience into the deepness of what his character is feeling. We understand how much his dad meant to him and begin to see how tough losing him was. Add a guitar to create the ambience and you have yourself powerful storytelling. All of this is credited to a brilliant performance.

Unfortunately, we lose this in the other, real world. It becomes clear from the beginning that this is a story about Jamie busking on the streets of London for his dad, and that part feels real. However, when this story expands into what is essentially a competition between himself and a fellow busker, and follows the classic enemies-to-friends trope, we lose the meaning behind the text. The duo is having a fair and justified argument about what busking means to them and the hardships that real people are facing. This creates a new branch that this one-act piece does not have the time to appropriately investigate alongside everything else that is going on. For a play centred around Jamie’s grief, the stakes mostly sit with Charlie and her financial struggles.


Aside from the story, we are left with a magnificent musical with two extremely talented actor-musicians. West plays the guitar with such ease that he can focus on acting like he is not even holding the strings, but my main applause goes to Wright who effortlessly transforms every surface into a drum and made sounds from unexpected things. Add the two together and you have the foundations for a musical masterclass. To top it off, we were treated to a set list of Sweet Caroline, Roxanne, Human, and Sound of Silence. West sent us out with Monsters, by James Blunt, which was a beautiful way to end the play and was artistically ingenious.


Although there is work to do to figure out how Snelgrove wants to tell the story, Street Songs: A Busker’s Tale has a lot of great elements as well as the team necessary to develop a piece that can grow beyond the fringe stage. A good debut, but not yet the finished product.


AD | gifted tickets in return for an honest review | photography by Larissa Pinkham


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