From Here review – sparkling musical shines light on life-changing events
This new musical about the false beginnings and endings in life was nearly over before it began. Various brushes with Covid meant a drastically shortened rehearsal period and, thanks to self-isolation, a last-minute cast change, with writers Ben Barrow and Lucy Ireland stepping in to perform. It turned out to be something quite special: funny, authentic and wise beyond its years.
Inspired by the “great pause” of lockdown, From Here explores those pivotal points in life that force us to reassess: the big breakup, starting a new job, falling in love. Threaded in between are the smaller moments that often wind up meaning the most. There’s a song about children’s bedtime stories that’s almost unbearably tender and another about a late-night Facebook scrolling session (I’ll Never Tell You) filled with lonely high notes that will haunt you for days.
The script is lit up with an easy sense of humour that stops things getting too heavy or schmaltzy. Grace Mouat is particularly good as the am dram-loving English teacher who marks papers by day, and sings and sparkles (thanks to a helluva costume change) by night.
But it’s in the moments of pathos that the cast excels. In Home to You, a student starts university and sings to her parents, pleading with them not to change. The lyrics are low-key yet this evolves into a powerful and complex song, as hopeful as it is melancholic. Ireland sings with feeling and grace, trusting in the score to do its job. Andrew Patrick-Walker brings vulnerability as a man struggling with OCD in The Monster Under the Bed, and there’s a fragile optimism in Barrow’s performance that lends his scenes depth.
Annabelle Hollingdale makes great use of her cast of four: whenever the actors aren’t singing, they’re observing, reacting and augmenting the emotions so thoughtfully explored in the score. Jessica Staton’s set is pared-back and simple, with just a few bare lights and a small scaffolding frame around the edges of the stage. It’s the start of something, really – a beginning I was sad to see end.