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The Mad Ones | Old Joint Stock Theatre

It always feels incredibly remarkable when smaller venues take a lesser-known musical and create a piece of theatre which is completely unique and breathtaking, and that is exactly what the Old Joint Stock Theatre has done with their production of The Mad Ones.

As 18-year-old Samantha sits in a hand me down car, she is experiencing an inner conflict of being stuck at a crossroad - does she conform to the expectations set of her by her overbearing helicopter mom, or does she follow the yearning desire to drive into the unknown, an idea previously put forward to her by her best friend who tragically dies in a collision with a car? Through flashbacks, we follow the highs and lows as Samantha battles existential angst, finding her place in the world and navigating friendships and relationships, and later on experiencing the grief that comes with losing someone incredibly important to you.

The heart of the show lies in the book, music and lyrics by Kait Kerrigan and Bree Lowdermilk, with an infused score of poppy and fun musical numbers with emotional ballads. Director Emily Suzanne Lloyd has found a happy medium in which the audience can revel in the light-hearted moments of reminiscence and memories between Samantha and Kelly, alongside experiencing the incredibly emotional believability of Samantha's heartbreaking situation.

The small cast size of four are stellar and bring something unique to their character, allowing the audience to relate to the characters in different ways. Safia Bartley as Kelly brings all the care-free attitude and nonchalance of a teenager in their senior year. Dora Gee as Samantha gives a masterclass of acting through song, whisking the audience along on her journey and breaking their hearts in the process.

Ryan Bartholomew as Adam, Samantha's nerdy high-school boyfriend, brings warmth and the much needed comedic relief in his performance. However, he demonstrates that his character isn't as one dimensional as it initially appears with a really impactful and emotional declaration of love for Samantha. Thea Jo-Wolfe as Beverly, Samantha's mom, brings the hysterics of an over-bearing helicopter mum that's losing touch with her teenage daughter, but it's in the moments of genuinely wanting her daughter to have the best possible life that are really touching.

Each cast member delivers impeccable vocals both in solo numbers and within the group harmonies. Accompanied by an incredibly tight band of three, led by Musical Director Callum Thompson, the music element elevates this production even further. Stand out musical numbers include Wolfe's Miles to Go, Bartholomew's Run Away With Me, Gee's The Girl Who Drove Away and Gee and Bartley's Go Tonight.

The Old Joint Stock Theatre provides the perfect intimate venue to be truly immersed into the poignant and life-affirming story. Tom McVeigh's set design is simple, but provides all that is necessary to move the story along - with a set of four car seats that stays stagnant on stage which transforms to transport the story to different locations. A smashed mirror adorns the back wall of the theatre, which serves as metaphor for Kelly's accident and Samantha's feeling of being swallowed by a black hole when she feels like she has nothing to live for due to her best friend no longer being here.

Joanne Marshall creates some lovely moments of lighting design, plummeting the stage into total darkness as Samantha quietly contemplates, or using a bright white light to draw attention to the smashed glass at the back of the stage. Tom Bedworth's sound design creates atmosphere against the minimalistic staging, using screeching tyres and the pulsating music of a house party to enhance the believability of each location in the story.

This production of The Mad Ones perfectly encapsulates the magic of theatre, and is a masterclass on how to truly bring a heartfelt and touching story to life without expensive and fancy production elements. At the heart of this production is an incredibly talented cast and creative team, and a beautifully intimate venue which has the potential to be THE venue for fringe theatre in Birmingham.

The Mad Ones runs at the Old Joint Stock Theatre until 20th April. For more information and tickets, you can follow the link here.


AD | gifted tickets in return for an honest review | photography by Shipwreck Productions


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