Monday 17 July 2023

THEATRE REVIEW: Seven And A Half Years - Salford Arts Theatre, Salford.

It’s not very often you can say you saw something that really was that bit different and when that is the case, it’s often because it was wacky or off-beat. ‘Seven And A Half Years’ is not just unusual but an intensely personal piece that is both real and relevant.

It is hard to put ‘Seven And A Half Years’ into a box. As a one-man show that is to a large extent a story being told through song, a comparison could be made to Andrew Lloyd Webber's ‘Tell Me On A Sunday’ and that would be a worthy compliment in itself. However, the show also contained a lot of pure theatre, part monologue and part acting (such as taking mobile calls from an estranged father or son) with the use of numerous props. In addition to that, there was as mix of live musical performance and backing tapes, sometimes with the two interspersed. Suffice to say, this was a very sophisticated piece telling a very specific story.

The story was essentially one man’s descent from having been married and enjoying an international musical career to experiencing long-term mental illness resulting in complete isolation and financial poverty. It was a story for our times with the news frequently running stories on mental illness and loneliness but it was also a very personal, true story that was ultimately supremely uplifting.

Special mention must be made of the quality of the songs. In a play, it is possible to get away with very basic, even throwaway music as might be used in say a play by Brecht. Mark Glentworth used music to progress the story but through fully crafted songs which were sophisticated and worthy of being performed by themselves. Anyone who was fan of the more soulful offerings from either Elton John or Billy Joel would thoroughly enjoy a performance of Glentworth’s music without any overriding story attached. It also had to be said that Glentworth had a genuinely expressive singing voice!

‘Seven And A Half Years’ was a wonderfully creative piece that never slacked in pace using a variety of genres as a showcase for the multi-talents of the solo performer. It was something more however; a story that the performer felt he needed to tell and one that certainly deserved to be told.

Reviewer - John Waterhouse
on - 14.7.23

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