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1 December 2020

REVIEW|RENT at Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester

RENT (Online Stream)
Hope Mill Theatre

Whilst at university, what feels like decades ago, I was introduced to a musical for the very first time that has become a firm favourite in my life ever since. It is a show that has had a chunk of my heart ever since and in this horrible year of uncertainty and the lack of live in the flesh theatre I was finally able to watch it live via a stream for the first time ever.

The Hope Mill Theatre, located in Manchester, announced after the first lockdown that they were planning to reopen their doors and share with their production of RENT, however after only a few performances under their belts, they were forced to close much to the devastation of so many who truly love this show. Luckily for our broken hearts, the show was recorded before the lockdown and is currently streaming online.

Photography by Pamela Raith

Photographyby Pamela Raith

Based on the Puccini opera La Boheme, RENT follows a group of impoverished New York creatives and artists, struggling with money and career problems all under the pressure of the HIV/AIDS outbreak. With music, lyrics and book by the late Jonathan Larson, this is the whole package of emotions, which is almost heightened by the times we are in during this current pandemic.

The twelve performer strong cast of the Hope Mill production were amazing, some of which I'd seen previously in other shows and some new faces to learn about and fall in love with. Millie O'Connell brought her loveable Millie charm to the role of Maureen and Maiya Quansah-Breed's Mimi was strong willed but vulnerable, perfect for her character. Jocasta Almgill was a stroke of genius sharing a whole new fierce side to Joanne, which I loved especially during her parts in Tango Maureen and Take Me or Leave Me.

Photography by Pamela Raith

Blake Patrick Anderson as Mark and Tom Francis as Roger again were excellent. Blake took the role of Mark the narrator and struggling film maker in his stride and Tom as Roger was incredible, sharing all parts of Roger's character so well. Ahmed Hamad played the "bad guy" of the show as Benny however, I enjoyed that in this production he showed a new likeability and misunderstanding of his character, which I appreciated.

I'll Cover You and I'll Cover You Reprise are two of my favourite songs in the show as they highlight the love in the relationship of Angel and Collins, played by Alex Thomas-Smith and Dom Hartley-Harris. Alex as Angel is the friend that all groups need, being the glue that holds the group together and Dom as Collins was a joy even if he broke me with his rendition of I'll Cover You Reprise, to the point I had to have my own little intermission in order to gather myself back together after being melted into a puddle of tears on the floor.

The featured ensemble for this show, Kayla CarterAllie DanielIssac Hesketh and Bethany Terry were also a key part of this show too, not pushed to the back each had their time to shine too.

Directed by Luke Sheppard and choreography by Tom Jackson Greaves were superb, with nods to the current social distancing requirements, so many times glances were highlighted and missed touches. These ideas gave me a chance to see a truly loved show in a new light and with new eyes, making new parts of the show and new lyrics stick with me in a different way to before.

From the beginning first beats of Act One to the ending of  a very emotional No Day But Today in Act Two, this show was perfect. A reminder of how theatre can warm your soul, hold your hand and help you out when you truly need it. There is truly no day but today.

Rent is available to stream until 20th December from Hope Mill Theatre.

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