By Isabella Fraser
This new musical from Gone Rogue Productions is set in Memphis. It occurs during the Sanitation Workers’ Strike of 1968. However, this is just a backdrop to the events occurring in a family, the Coopers, who are experiencing their own problems during this time. Because the strike storyline is a mere footnote to the events unfolding, it is unclear why this is given the importance it receives as part of body of the piece. There are several different story threads through this piece which means that the text becomes cluttered and at times feels tokenistic, rather than a valid piece of social commentary, or a logical story build. It would benefit from trimming to ensure the central storyline of the musical is given more clarity.
There is a large cast – 11 people – in this show, so at times the performance space seems cramped. In the main the cast manage to work through this challenge, but the odd layout of the audience seating does not help. This is another area where a pruning of the number of characters would allow more freedom for stage movement.
The songs overall are good as are the performances, with the standout being ‘Mama Mae’, a dynamic number led with verve by Josephine Ssemuyaba, definitely a performer to watch. While singing as an ensemble, the musical sections work; however, problems arise when individuals sing as not all of the voices are suited to the songs they have been assigned. Some of the cast definitely suffered from tackling vocals that were either too high or too low for their natural pitches.
Despite the over-complicated storyline and characters, it is a new musical and this is the first outing of it with a young and enthusiastic cast – there is potential for a stronger work to emerge from this piece.
The Craft of The Cooper runs until 31 August at C Venues – C Cubed @ 16:55. Running time is 1 hour, 20 mins.