Reviews London TheatreOWE & Fringe Published 7 October 2016

Review: This Little Life Of Mine at Park Theatre

Park Theatre ⋄ 4th - 29th October 2016

#firstworldproblems: Fergus Morgan reviews a new musical about just your average couple.

Fergus Morgan
This Little Life Of Mine at the Park Theatre. Photo: Charlie Round-Turner.

This Little Life Of Mine at the Park Theatre. Photo: Charlie Round-Turner.

This Little Life Of Mine, Michael Yale’s new musical at the Park Theatre, sells itself as an everyday story of love and loss in contemporary London. You’ve seen the tube posters: an iPhone, a selfie of a smiling couple, a Tinder logo. This, the marketing screams, is a modern musical about you. About your life. About the people you know. About the apps you use. About your #firstworldproblems. And therein lies the rub.

Here’s the thing: no-one gives a shit about shallow, socially mobile, upper-middle class, twenty-something Londoners. No-one gives a shit that they can only afford to rent a one-bedroom in Zone 2. No-one gives a shit if they can only just see the river from their window. No-one gives a shit if their parents are sometimes a bit irritating. And – insensitive though this sounds – no-one gives a shit that they’re struggling to conceive. This must be how Americans feel about Neil LaBute.

Simply put, This Little Life Of Mine is full of people that you simply cannot sympathise with, no matter how hard you try. Izzy (Kate Batter) and Jonesy (James Robinson) are an identikit couple, embarking on an identikit life together. First comes love, soon comes marriage, but – oh no! – the baby in the golden carriage is taking its sweet time. Their mounting tribulations put a strain on their relationship over an entirely predictable, entirely telegraphed two hours: first comes grief, then comes resentment, then comes adultery. Yerma this ain’t.

Batter is most convincing as the baby-mad Izzy, subtly shifting her preoccupation with fallopian tubes and ovulation schedules from endearing to alarming as the musical progresses. Where Batter adjusts to the intimacy of the Park’s 90-seat studio theatre well, however, Robinson does not. He just doesn’t have the emotional range to lift his Jonesy out of the stereotype, his smile eternally hovering somewhere between giddy grin and guilt-ridden grimace. Greg Barnett and Caroline Deverill complete the four-strong cast, multi-roling with varying success throughout. Barnett provides an entertainingly bohemian Charterhouse-boy-turned-banker and Deverill earns some laughs as the world’s worst mother-in-law.

For the most part, though, this is an ensemble to be pitied, not praised. There’s only so much they can do with dialogue as stilted, lyrics as unimaginative, jokes as ill-judged as Yale’s. His book is a tonally uncomfortable car-crash of rom-com clichés, crowbarred cultural references and bizarrely graphic splurges. Jonesy’s lines lurch between the charming and the chauvinist, Izzy’s between the babyish and the bitchy. No-one talks like this. No-one.

Charlie Round-Turner’s music, performed by Thomas Duchan and Daisy Heath on piano and cello, occasionally provides moments of respite. Deverill and Barnett have a number of exuberant songs – their rollicking duet at an impromptu swinging party is the evening’s highlight, but it’s closely followed by sly second-half singalong ‘Just One More’, a nudge-nudge-wink-wink send-up of drunken lust. These are diamonds in the rough, though. This Little Life Of Mine decidedly fails the musical theatre acid test: it’s 24 hours later and I can’t remember any of the tunes.

This is the second new musical to fill Park90 this Autumn, after the European premiere of the joyously innocent, bluegrass-filled The Burnt Part Boys. It’s an underwhelming follow-up act in truth, from a theatre with consistently exciting programming. Rough with the smooth ‘n’ all, though: This Little Life Of Mine may be a dreary dud, as was The American Wife that preceded it, but Mark Gatiss is earning plaudits in The Boys In The Band in the main house and there is plenty to look forward to in the pipeline, not least Peter Quilter’s new comedy, Saving Jason, in November. Let’s all move on.

This Little Life Of Mine is on until 29th October 2016 at the Park Theatre. Click here for more details. 


Fergus Morgan is a contributor to Exeunt Magazine

Review: This Little Life Of Mine at Park Theatre Show Info

Directed by Michael Yale

Written by Michael Yale

Cast includes Greg Barnett, Kate Batter, Caroline Deverill, James Robinson

Original Music Charlie Round-Turner



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