Over the past few years, London’s theatre scene has been exposed to multiple ‘new’ productions that have taken well-known stories to the stage…. Matilda, Charlie & The Chocolate Factory and Shrek to name but a few. Whilst these may be roaring successes at the box office, to me, these adaptations have made me feel there’s become a sense of stifling of creativity. This was one of the many reasons why I was looking forward to seeing Streets Project.
Taking a look at a highly sensitive issue (2011’s London riots), Streets has brought fresh breath into what’s seemingly become a staid industry. It positioned itself as a ‘new kind of musical’, and it totally lived up to that expectation. A young cast of relative unknowns, supported by a fresh new soundtrack, a compelling storyline and some great choreography, Streets did everything that it said on the tin… and then more.
Set alongside the infamous riots as a backdrop, the story focuses on a group of friends whose lives start spiralling in different directions through common-place issues in 21st century London, focusing on violence, drugs, love and social bonding.
I don’t want to get too much into the storyline (it’s really something you need to witness for yourselves without any spoilers embedded in your mind), but to put it into perspective, think Kiddulthood meets Ill Manors.
Drug dealer Skinner (played by the brilliant James Kenward) adds continued support as both a lead character and a rapping narrator (check out ‘Runaway’ and ‘The Narrator’ from the Ill Manors soundtrack to give you an idea on how that works). Standout performances from Alexandra Da Silva (playing 17-year-old-but-head-screwed-on pregnant Lily) and emotionally gripping Sian Louise (lead-character Robyn) bring all the characters together; whilst ‘This Is England’s’ Danielle Watson’s fantastic portrayal of Officer Brooks takes you back to reality and reminds you of what life was like in Croydon when the riots all ‘kicked off’ in August 2011.
Supported by some brilliant vocals of some fresh new tracks from Tori Allen-Martin and Benedict (aka @BenedictMusic) and astonishingly great beatboxing by Tom Swarman (aka Pikey Esquire), the audio soundtrack was high up there, easily equalling what’s available in the West End shows. Then there’s some lovely touches of hip-hop/street-inspired choreography (by Ryan-Lee Seager and Kamilah Beckles) to fuse the whole ‘experience’ together.
It’s actually hard to believe this musical has only been a few months in the making; the young cast are polished, strong, and act with a sense of emotion that draw the audience in and make them feel they are actually part of the scenes. Whilst some may say this is amateur theatre at its best (the cast were moving the set around themselves mid-acting), there was nothing amateur about this production.
Everything worked well; whilst there’s been movies over the years dealing with gang culture/miss-behaved kids/drugs/violence etc, it’s never successfully been brought to life on-stage…. until now. If you can cope with the most gripping of storylines though with a few laughs, songs and smiles along the way, then Streets Project is definitely one for you.
Kudos to you all – 4.5/5
Streets Project is on now at The Cockpit Theatre, Marylbone until 21st April. www.streetsproject.co.uk