Lockdown review: Rent Online

Hope Mill Theatre’s brilliant revival of Jonathan Larson’s classic rock musical of the AIDS era, with powerhouse performances from a talented cast including Blake Patrick Anderson as Mark, Millie O’Connell as Maureen, Maiya Quansah-Breed as Mimi, Dom Hartley-Harris as Tom Collins, and a rocking debut from Tom Francis as Roger.

Directed by Luke Sheppard and MD’d by Katy Richardson, this is a stripped-down production for a large stage, filmed on the last performance of five before Manchester theatres closed under tier 3 Covid restrictions. The plot of an insidious plague made worse by political inertia may well be as resonant today as it was when this musical was written in 1996.

Cast of Rent Online
Cast of Rent Online

Bubbled together, the cast does not have to stay socially distant, meaning that some scenes including those between Collins and Angel (a touching bit from Alex Thomas-Smith) work just that bit better, and the sense of community, reaching out, and not knowing what will happen tomorrow is beautifully evoked through the pulsing music and the set pieces.

Rent may be weak on actual plot – it takes some inspiration from the opera La Boheme – but it has a score which, although it does root itself firmly in the 1990s, continues to get an audience toe-tapping and feeling just that little bit of emotional connection.

Millie O'Connell in Rent Online
Millie O’Connell in Rent Online

The Hope Mill Theatre, just a tiny performance space up north, continues to punch above its weight, and long may that continue. Following on from the release of a cast album for their production of Rags, I very much hope this version of Rent is available for everyone to enjoy.

Rent Online is streaming until the 20 December (UK only) – book from £25 at https://hopemilltheatre.co.uk/events/rent-online. The show runs for two and a half hours.

Images by Pamela Raith.

5 thoughts on “Lockdown review: Rent Online

      1. Rent actually felt like I was never going to see it- there wasn’t a sign of a tour or anything.

        My first time actually experiencing Rent was the Final Broadway Cast Film.

        I had to wait five years to see it, but wroth the wait. Once I found out Rent was touring to Charlotte through Blumenthal’s 16/17 season, I knew I had to convince my parents, and I actually got the tickets for xmas 2016.

      2. It actually does- in order to love a musical, I have to love the songs, and Rent has an incredible soundtrack.

        Love the story- I love the message it brings. Well, there is another reason why I relate to Rent: I have epilepsy and even though HIV/AIDS isn’t the same, I still can understand their struggle.

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