Huge potential of the Circle Line

PUBLISHED: 18:02 22 July 2009 | UPDATED: 17:28 16 August 2010

IT was with some trepidation that I went to see a musical set against the backdrop of the London bombings in July 2005, writes Kate Mead.

IT was with some trepidation that I went to see a musical set against the backdrop of the London bombings in July 2005, writes Kate Mead.

I imagined inappropriate jazz hands and show tunes that would make Jade Goody: The Musical appear positively tasteful.

But writer Tom Costello managed to bite the bullet and avoid significant injury at the Broadway Studio, , last week with Circle Line, a gentle yet poignant reflection on what it means to be free in London since the terrorist attacks.

His fellow student at St Catherine's College, Oxford, Aisha Mirza provides some wonderfully atmospheric music accompanied by three-piece band Theo Whitworth, Olivia Wakefield and Eva Tausig.

Mirza's folky, subtle melodies and quirky lyrics serenading a "rich tea city" with songs including Planet Strucken and 43 Per Cent Fake, complement Costello's witty dialogue and his odes to a capital with 'all the mood swings of a teenager'.

Songwriter Mirza plays busker Amina, who reconnects with Brian (Chris Greenwood) four years after they met when they narrowly miss being caught up in the July 7 bombings.

The play flits back in time as they reflect how as their relationship intensified, their intimacy could be both stifling and liberating.

Greenwood plays an affectionate Brian whose soulful voice, comic timing and stage presence often overwhelmed a more unpractised Mirza who was clearly more comfortable with her own familiar lyrics.

But despite her inexperience, Mirza showed flashes of true passion with some compelling monologues and strong solos, ironically giving her strongest performance in Gone, a song about losing her voice.

In fact, sometimes the difference in Mirza and Greenwood's performances - her fidgety nervousness versus his confident poise - made the relationship between them all the more watchable.

Aside from the odd predictable theatre trick, director Vicky O'Brien made good use of an intimate stage assisted with projections and film designed by Nathan Letore.

But some themes in this fascinating play were left frustratingly adrift - the couple's burgeoning romance amid the paranoia of an injured London could have made a stark juxtaposition on stage but sadly this was never properly developed.

The highly talented band were all too often secreted behind the audience and only sometimes acted as extras to help denote time and place on stage.

And screaming out for more treatment was the moment when their physical proximity turned explosive which twinned with the claustrophobia and terror of bombing on the Underground would have made for a more compelling ending.

These are, however, small niggles about a play that on the whole was exciting, fresh and passionately performed by a dedicated cast and crew.

Let's hope Costello and Mirza's Circle Line comes around again without delay.

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