- Xi Ye
Review - No Limits
Playing until 26th February 2023
Music and Lyrics: Sam Thomas
Director: Dean Johnson
Musical Director/Supervisor: Ella Ingram
Producer: Sam Caldwell (Paper House Productions)
First published in Everything Theatre
No Limits features over a dozen stories, each with its own unique song, and covers a range of narratives including love, aspirations, motherhood and myriad other major transitions in life. Irrespective of one’s personal experience, there is likely at least one story that will resonate.
The cast is formed of five exceptionally talented individuals, each bringing something unique to their roles, of which there are many given the number of stories covered. Even though the actors change after each story, the performers’ strengths are well aligned with the part they bring to life. This song cycle is refreshing as each piece is contained within itself and brings its own unique positivity before it moves on to the next. This way, energy levels are effortlessly kept high, where longer cohesive story telling approaches might require mindfulness to achieve the same result.
While there is no shortage of talent, Natalie May Paris is the standout performer. Whether in the role of an expectant mother or a wife that teams up with the mistress to punish her cheating husband, she instigates waves of applause with her sensational vocals, balanced with emotional acting in every scene. Similarly, Michael Mather and Mary Moore are both fantastic actors, with the capability to lead and support in the various mini stories. Moore in particular, with her expressiveness, is very well suited to and has a special proclivity for comedy. Owen Clayton and Hannah Lowther bring great individuality to their respective stories. Clayton sets a very high bar for the rest of the cast by giving the first solo of the show, “Headfuck”, which is hilarious and theatrical to the extreme. However, while he continues to provide extraordinary vocals for the remainder of the show, his posture at times appears somewhat contained and rigid, and I would have liked to see more open and expressive movements in certain parts of the story. While Lowther’s performance is enjoyable, there are times where the high notes appear at odds with the other actors who join the stage in the big musical numbers.
The stage direction and the music are both exceedingly well done. Director Dean Johnson along with Sam Thomas, who is responsible for the music and lyrics, join forces to devise a song order that generates an emotional rollercoaster. Rarely does an audience get consecutive purely feelgood numbers like this. It is also worth noting that the only occasions in which all five actors appear on stage at the same time are during the first and last songs of each Act. This is an excellent way to open and close, with a high degree of energy and bringing the individual actor’s talents together.
Set Designer Justin Williams has crafted a dynamic and flexible apartment space. The sofa bed is the only truly manoeuvrable piece, but smaller props such as cardboard moving boxes are moved on and off the stage to create some level of variation, or to facilitate transition between stories and the changeover of actors. Of note, there is a screen on stage left, displaying pictures, messages and social media posts to complement the narratives. This is generally used effectively. However, the positioning of a houseplant and some smaller boxes around the screen can partially obstruct the view of spectators sitting on the far right-hand side and also further back in the auditorium.
No Limits is a well-crafted and excellently staged song cycle, with each mini story designed to remind the audience of their own worth and value, irrespective of the stage of life they’re at, and that it is never too late to take another step forward. The vitality throughout the show is simply phenomenal and it is nothing short of a tsunami of positivity.