The studio housed within The Other Palace is a hub for fresh and upcoming theatre, making it the perfect place for the new British 'dark comedy' musical, 'The Feeling', to make its premiere.
Beautifully designed by Halie Darling (who also plays Mel), was the programme for the show. Despite only costing a light donation, its design is a personal favourite of mine amid others in my possession. On the back, a list of relevant helplines are available- an important touch that links the performance to those equally distressing situations in the real world.
Raw scenes piece together the story of a group of friends: Kasey, Archie, Lexie, Mel, Jessie, Edie, Jamie and Holt. Mirroring real-life drama, the audience enter their lives for just over two hours, getting swept along with the ups and downs of their journeys. When their connections with each other are under threat, tensions become high and rocky relationships reveal cracks between the group, harrowing moments show the true effects of diminishing mental health and alcoholism, among other sensitive issues.
There's something about this piece of theatre that feels so much more tangible than your typical musical. Regardless of your personal situation, there is something relatable in there, with it's modernities in line with the society we live in today. For some, it could potentially hit hard with its strong themes, with it very likely that one can see themselves or someone they know in the characters, hopefully encouraging them to seek the necessary help for themselves or others and lessening the stigma too.
As well as being produced by and starring Kyra Jessica Willis, The Feeling is her theatre writing debut, which is important to consider when watching. It feels delicate and honest, not just through the topics featured, but also the natural way that it is written with Kyra's down-to-earth yet feisty flare. Dropping in innuendos throughout, it appears that her personality has really come through in her character, as well with the development of the others she has written. This concoction of cheeky humour and dark themes means it has a recommended age of 12+, however, I would think that it should be a little older for a true understanding of the issues raised.
Throughout the musical, there are a number of both familiar and unfamiliar songs. There are elements that would've possibly worked better as a play, though upon hearing the vocals, I understand why Kyra and George C Francis (director) were keen to utilise and experiment with this. Fitting the songs into the show meant that the majority are solo or duet pieces which, though showcases each individual talent well, mean the audience must wait until the end to hear the whole cast in unison. With the harmonious blend being one I'd like to hear more of, I hope this will shine through in future productions.
The Other Palace is a lovely little venue with easy accessibility for those that require it. There's unreserved seating in the Studio, with a bar and set of toilets specifically for this area. Occasionally, it felt like there was a bit too much or too little occurring on stage, however it should be noted that being in a different, possibly bigger, space would alter this to suit the needs of the performance better and perfect the balance.
At the end of the show, it seems like there are still a couple of loose ends (such as a scene where a character comes out as bisexual, yet this storyline is no further explored), which in further edits of the production could be removed to cut down the running time- the rise of shorter productions is currently rife- and increase the fluidity of the script. Overall, this didn't detract from the fact that there can be high prospects with future showings.
The Feeling has huge amounts of potential, with a few tweaks here and there, but that's completely natural for a brand new piece. I am intrigued to see where things go next for this show, Kyra and Monsteers Artistry.
The full cast was as follows: Kasey (PJ Tomlinson), Archie (Sean Erwood), Lexie (Pippa Lea), Mel (Halie Darling), Jessie (Kyra Jessica Willis), Edie (Chloe Hazel), Jamie (George C. Francis) and Holt (Chris Barton)
If you'd like to read the interview with Kyra, Halie and George about The Feeling and their experiences of the arts industry, you can do so here: https://hannahacrouch.wixsite.com/blog/single-post/the-feeling-cast-interview