The Siren Club – review

This review first appeared in British Theatre Guide

Curve Young Company presents
The Siren Club
Written and directed by Sarah Ingram
Choreography by Melanie Knott and Darren Bennett
Musical director Stephen Waterhouse (CYC) and Lucy Wass (RSA)

“Let’s sing, dance and fall in love like tomorrow never comes.”

These are the inviting words of MC and host at The Siren Club, Archie Wells. When tomorrow does come for Archie, he’ll leave his tuxedo and Blighty behind for the uniform of the 8th Army and the Second World War’s latest recruit.

In this second production by CYC Musicals, one of the Curve Young Company programmes for 7- to 25-year-olds, the cast and professional creatives supporting them have devised and choreographed The Siren Club; it’s 1942 and the last night of freedom for the 8th Army’s new recruits. Predominantly through song and dance, moments of lives on the cusp of huge change and danger are presented—a rushed proposal, a young soldier besotted with a nightclub singer, young beaus and their girls enjoying the music to help them forget what’s coming.

Set out like a dance hall with cabaret seating and walls adorned with cheeky posters of the period (“Let’s catch him with his panzers down”), the cast of 33 perform around us, dancing to the Siren Club band (the accomplished Robert Smyth Academy Big Band).

Writer and director Sarah Ingram, together with choreographers Mel Knott and Darren Bennett (currently busy at Curve, combining this with his performances in An Officer and a Gentleman the Musical) wanted the cast to experience performance beyond the fourth wall, encouraging performers to research and devise their characters and remain in character throughout. Actors sometimes ask for the pleasure of a dance with an audience member, or swing and execute the odd acrobatic tumble to many classics of the era: “Little Brown Jug”, “Pennysylvania 6-5000” and “In the Mood”.

There is something of a backlash currently to use of the word ‘immersive’, yet many productions now boast an immersive element to their shows; it will certainly be a useful skill for aspiring triple-threaters. As an audience member, I found this immersion a thrill to be in amongst the energy of this group of talented performers, dancing to the big band sound and getting proceedings after the interval off to a pulsing start with Benny Goodman’s “Sing Sing Sing”.

Finlay Watkinson plays a smooth and debonair Archie Wells, in control of the night from the start. Mialuca Backus is mature and sultry as nightclub singer Miss Ruby, and Carmen Farrell’s performance of a poem leading into the “White Cliffs of Dover” cuts through the nightclub vibe with a poignant yet beautifully optimistic delivery to bring the evening to an end.

There are two stark reminders of why we’re all here: suddenly ushered out at the interval as the air raid siren wails (a chilling sound no matter your age), and closing with young men marching out to their fate as their girls cry and wave them off, the actors themselves not far in age behind those who did it for real.

Images by Pamela Raith Photography

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