Tuesday, 24 January 2017

West End Review: Murder Ballad

Entrancing. Enthralling. Murder Ballad was utterly exquisite and unlike anything I'd seen before. I had the pleasure of watching the 8pm performance on Tuesday 8th November and I honestly wish it hadn't been a limited run, just so that I could have the pleasure of watching it again.

At its core the plot is a mixture of romance and lies; a weighty love triangle between Tom (Ramin Karimloo), his former lover Sara (Kerry Ellis), and her husband Michael (Norman Bowman). The story is told via the Narrator (Victoria Hamilton-Barrett) and takes place in New York, but deeper than that it is a story about love and forgiveness, the search for perfection in one's life, and how far one may be willing to go to attain, or destroy, it.

The story is brought together all told by a variety of songs ranging from pure ballad ('Sara') to a heavier rock mix ('You Belong To Me'), but all working to piece the show together, either with present day action, the past of the characters, or their internal feelings. They meld easily from one into another, both telling and bridging the story pieces, weaving an immaculate tale of love and self-destruction. Every song is mesmerising, but more so the cast who sing them.

One thing to bear in mind is that Murder Ballad is a four-hander. If one cast member is not up to par, even for just that one show, it could affect the audience's entire experience. Murder Ballad's foursome was impeccable; perfectly cast in every way. Karimloo and Ellis are well known theatre veterans and it was clear to see they each put their heart and soul into Tom and Sara respectively. Every note rang through the theatre with perfect clarity; emotions and power woven within. I honestly could not tear my eyes away.

Bowman was a new voice to my ears, as was Hamilton-Barrett, but I left wanting more. They both also gave impeccable performances. Bowman's Michael was so genuine and yet so raw and passionate when called for that it was hard not to empathise with him completely. There was honestly a point where my emotions matched his; as if I were the spectator of true life events.

Hamilton-Barrett's Narrator was however my favourite part of the night. Confident, assured, a silent attitude, she not only brought the whole piece together but did so with charm, grace, and a killer voice. I was hooked to her every line, every movement; both her part in the story and her portrayal were nothing less than perfect.

Last but not least, the staging was phenomenal; the last threads to effortlessly weave the complete story together. The stage itself is small and yet the set pieces, cast and wonderful direction utilised every inch to fully tell this immersive tale. A two way turntable and interactive screens enhanced the show further, pulling the audience quite literally into the minds of the characters. All told Murder Ballad wasn't simply a show, it was a masterpiece.

Sadly the season is over now but if it ever comes back to the West End I do urge you all to watch it; a fabulous 5 star show!

Have you seen Murder Ballad yourself? Have any thoughts or comments? Do let me know in the comments below or on Twitter!

Thanks for reading!

Holly @The_Arts_Shelf

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