This sensitive and simply presented story of guilt and grief has plenty to break the heart, but equally gets you thinking about how other people’s actions affect your reactions.
A musical in which the main character doesn’t speak or sing until virtually the end of the show is perhaps not what you expect from a musical – but of course the clue is in the title of this heartbreaking if at times difficult to warm to production.
Michael has locked himself away from the world following his mother’s tragic death and as a result, other people in his life have drifted away from him. Until one day his old girlfriend Lauren comes around to try and help him to open up. But as the story unravels it turns out that more than one person was affected by what happened to Michael’s mother.
It is a very contemporary musical that effortlessly combines the past with the present, particularly focusing on what is going on in Michael’s mind as he reflects on the past and attempts to deal with his grief and guilt. By using a teenage version of Michael before the accident, who mirrors adult Michael’s movements in a way that is haunting, revealing that he is still the same person but has just lost his way by being shut down as he is.
Jamie Jackson’s production might not be big and bold, but it is sensitive, subtle and allows the characters to take centre stage throughout and their story to ring true for the audience. But this also means that the music and lyrics by Tim Prottey-Jones and Tori Allen-Martin can seem a bit blurred out and not make much of an impact as it could – despite the wonderful emotions that come through in every note in every song.
There are some strong performances to be enjoyed, not least from David Leopold as Michael, who might not have much to say vocally but through his movements and expressions really says a lot more about the character’s complicated emotions towards his mother and himself more than words could accurately express. This is perfectly matched by Tori Allen-Martin as Lauren, whose visits to Michael help her as much as they do him. Tori Allen-Martin gives a performance that is sensitive, charming and ultimately heartbreaking to watch – particularly in the climax. Together, Allen-Martin and Leopold have a great natural chemistry together, that leads to some truly beautiful moments when they realise they still love each other.
Sarah Henley’s book has developed relationships between the characters well and filled with emotion that while the bleakness of the set (don’t really understand the need for water or the layout) perhaps makes it difficult to get into, there are plenty of gorgeous moments between characters that help make for a mesmerising production.
Sharp and thought-provoking, Muted has all the elements of a strong and unique musical that will make you cry and yet fill you with hope that nothing is impossible to get through. While musically it might not be absolutely perfect, there is certainly much to appreciate and enjoy.
Muted will continue to play at the Bunker theatre until the 7th January 2017. For more information and to book tickets visit: https://www.bunkertheatre.com/whats-on/muted