Working is a profound piece of musical theatre that shines a spotlight on the ordinary lives of working people capturing an abundance of emotions.
American broadcaster Studs Terkel is known for his interviews with iconic people like Martin Luther King, Leonard Bernstein and more. However, it was his interviews with everyday people from the American workforce that created his legacy. The truth of their lives was written into the pages of his book, Working.
Bringing this book to the stage is always a risk because there is no strong narrative, no eleven o’clock number and no jazz hands – but that is what makes it so beautiful. Studs Terkel’s words are revelationary and they have been paired with a variety of high-profile composers to create a one-act musical that delves into the lives of a multitude of different people.
The company are nothing less than extraordinary. The lead six actors take every story and completely commit to each role. What is remarkable about this production is that we witness these people take on characters that are entirely diverse and different from all walks of life and their versatility as actors is just remarkable.
Luke Sheppard’s direction is masterly as he has really gotten to the core of each story. This is mirrored by Fabian Aloise’s choreography which is slick, creative and lifts the piece – especially in the dynamic opening number All The Livelong Day.
Krysten Cummings really pulls on the heartstrings when opening the number Just A Housewife and she brings passion to her completely contrasting performance of the jazzy and soulful Cleanin Women. Gillian Bevan brought wit and charm to her performance of It’s An Art and Liam Tamne brings such sweet charisma to his roles – a particular highlight being Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Delivery. Siubhan Harrison is tender and warm in A Very Good Day and Millwork, her vocals are exquisite and rich with emotion.
Dean Chisnall proves his strength as an actor as he takes on an unbelievable amount of roles. His powerhouse number Brother Trucker is pure gold and he sparks so much emotion as he sings about the lives he has saved as a firefighter. Peter Polycarpou gives everything to his roles and his natural characterisation is just outstanding. When singing as an old retired man in the number Joe, he reflects upon his life in a superbly heartfelt way.
Making this production even more special is that they have recruited six young actors that have only just graduated from drama school to make their debut. Performing as an ensemble, they really build the layers of the performance and they heighten the stories with their captivating movement and vocals. Patrick Coulter, Nicola Espallardo, Izuka Hoyle, Luke Latchman, Huon Mackley and Kerri Norville really connect to everything on stage as they seamlessly slip into different roles within an instant.
It’s a production that will fill you with every emotion imaginable. The actors create an utterly engaging performance telling these universal stories. It’s a musical that you will relate to on a personal level, you will find yourself consumed by a story because of it’s connection to your life.
Working is raw, honest and powerful, yet bursting with humour and heart. The clever and insightful storytelling has an indescribable way of pulling the audience in and not letting them go until that final note fades.
★★★★★ Five Stars
On until the 8th of July at the Southwark Playhouse, tickets and information can be found here.