The Choir of Man - Arts Theatre - Review
Mischief Movie Night, Fleabag and Six. What do they all have in common? Well, these three massive hit shows all come from humble beginnings, getting their start in the world at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and now another success story has come barrelling out of its Fringe starting block to global popularity: The Choir of Man, which premiered at the festival in 2017.
Featuring an all-male cast of talented vocalists, musicians and wordsmiths, The Choir of Man invites the audience into The Jungle Pub, where they come together to sing. Each character is given a descriptive name, The Romantic, The Poet, the Bore, The Joker, for example, the types of guys you would come across in your local, and as the show progresses over its interval-less 90 minute running time, through the songs that they perform and the monologues presented by the Poet, we learn more about their personal lives and why the pub and the group is so important to them.
In what is truly as ensemble piece that juggles music, song, poetry, and dance so effortlessly, Dennis Grindel’s ‘The Poet’ pieces the action together with his monologues, introducing us to each character and giving them their own chance to shine. All of this is held seamlessly together with pop hits from the likes of Queen, Luther Vandross, Sia, Adele and Avicii.
There are many laugh out loud moments in this production, from Matt Thorpe’s cheeky antics as ‘The Joker’, to Matt Nalton’s interactions with the audience and a tower of cards as ‘The Bore’, and Gavin Ryan’s (swinging on as The Barman) high energy take on ‘If You Like Pina Colada’s’ to name but a few. But this is also a show with real heart. The idea that the local pub is somewhere that men can go to talk and perhaps more importantly be listened to is introduced early on, and it is this that gives the show it’s emotional core. In each musical performance we learn more about the leader of it as they open up through song.
With the cast directly addressing the audience throughout the performance, ‘The Choir of Man’ is a very interactive piece of theatre. The entire auditorium becomes The Jungle, with visitors invited onto the stage before the show begins and glasses of beer handed out during the musical numbers. There’s even a chance to sing along at one point, but only when you are invited. It can get a little bit rowdy at times, but I think that’s all in the spirit of it.
Crammed full of comedy and heart, ‘The Choir of Man’ blends entertainment with important messages of men being able to talk and how local pubs continue to be the hub of communities up and down the country. It will leave you smiling and humming a familiar tune for hours to come.
'The Choir of Man' runs at the arts theatre until 28th May