A young man welcomes us to the riverbed on Midsummer’s Eve in this curious folk musical by and with Nathaniel Jones, previously performed under the title Thamesis.
The songs (music by Faye James) follow a storyline of the gods, of memories, and of objects, and of promises, gifts, and control.
They reminded me somewhat of Paul Giovanni’s work for the first film version of The Wicker Man – which is a folk musical in its own right, and squarely in the horror genre as Sing, River also could be.
The stage is mapped out with the kibd of debris beloved of mudlarks who scavenge on the river bed or the seashore, but we start to realise each object has a closer significance to the young man that we originally think.
Jones is a confident performer,but the artistic choices around the use of microphones and saying some lines quietly does mean that wherever you sit in the Hope’s horseshoe of seats, some of the script’s nuance will be lost.
There is a lot to relate about an artistic and imaginative childhood, a loving sibling, a relationship which borders on mental abuse, and discussions of potential suicide. The river may seek items of more emotional than monetary value, but we wonder why.
I did wonder what the decision to include storytelling, which felt very realistic and modern (a parking ticket just short of Stonehenge), alongside more abstract songs around belief and paganism, really meant for the piece.
The two don’t necessarily gel all the way through, not yet, although the wordplay in the songs is very accomplished and feels as if it belongs in an otherworldly place.
When the young man recalls his creation of three clay figures from mythology, it feels as if there is an opportunity to bring them in, somehow.
The Green Man, Lady Isis, and Father Time are such familiar figures (along with Boudicca, also briefly mentioned) that it seems a shame to simply pass them by.
This is the story of one troubled soul, though, and how he works through his own baggage and neuroses. There is hope for this character (fittingly, given tonight’s venue) but it feels as if some of the story is still being kept from us.
Director Katie Kirkpatrick brings a quiet mysticism to the river setting and a sense of nervous motion to the personal stories and the young man’s feeling of being trapped.
Under lights (by Evie Cakebread), which suggest water and the approaching sunrise, Sing, River unfolds unevenly across a 75-minute runtime, but there are moments that shine brightly throughout.
Image credit: Phylly Hickish, Riya Kataria