Review: Cells, season one (Metta Theatre, online)

Two ordinary blokes find a connection in this web series, where “Alan Bennett meets The Streets”. Lem Knights is starting at university, the first in his family; Clive Rowe is leaving life as a lab technician after being made redundant.

Sung through in seven episodes of approximately five minutes each (First/Last Day; Going Out; The Hunger; Cells; Good Man; Awkward; Never Too Late), each episode of this series was released by Metta Theatre in collaboration with other arts organisations.

What’s On Stage, Royal & Derngate, Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch, and Stephen Joseph Theatre are these partners, and donations are encouraged to help theatres across the country get back on their feet.

Screencap of Lem Knights in Cells

Writer/director P Burton Morgan and composer Ben Glasstone have developed a pair of characters who build their stories in song as they see the reflection of self in each other.

Rowe, a veteran performer in musicals, completely convinces in the role of the older man who finds himself adrift, “hungry for answers”, an avid gamer in his lonely world.

Knights, who came to public notice via The Voice, is very good in both voice and personality of the teenager left adrift. The casting, for many reasons, is an absolute master stroke, and essential to the story development.

These two have something which brings them together; first in the kebab shop, and then in ways neither of them could have foreseen.

Screencap of Clive Rowe and Lem Knights in Cells

Cells is a curious project filmed in a London which has a suggestive quality in its quiet streets and organised interiors, which show how alike the two men are in how they live and what they keep around them.

These are story songs rather than big numbers, but with strong lyrical content and pleasant melodies. Cells works equally well as short episodes as well as a full-length half-hour film.

The plot and premise, as it develops, may be a little far-fetched (and ethically shaky), but we are all under the influence of outside forces and coincidence, so why not these two?

Cells is available in episode format or as a full film on Metta Theatre’s YouTube channel. The album was released on 26 April 2021 through Spotify and other digital platforms.