"'Country-mouse' comic musical of London"
by Rachel Knightley for remotegoat on 15/02/16

Gemma Rogers is a stage presence you immediately you want to spend an evening with. A real audience pleaser, she played her musical story of Belle leaving a dead-end town and relationship for the dubious adventures of the rush hour and high rents to packed rows of benches, making the Vault’s theatre space under Waterloo Bridge feel like a tube train – albeit a tube train with glowing shotglasses on many of the seats. The glasses were for a shared session of rum as part of the drunk club song My Idea of Fun, and the drumkit, guitar, small platform and enormous London Underground logo projected on the back wall made us feel like ‘London Town’ the station where all of us lived. The feeling was that we were all laughing together about our own town and that went down really well with the audience.

The narrative wasn’t always as clear as it needed to be. Most songs have something quirky, memorable and original but there is still polishing to do and certain technical problems with sound clarity and finding the light drew attention to this in places. The best thing Rogers can do to make this potentially excellent show come into its own is to differenticate her narrator persona from Belle, which given how strong she is at characterisation will probably be a joy for her to explore. This will also mean telling a story in third person then leaping into it as its characters is a strength rather than a difficulty.

Rogers was most comfortable playing the range of Belle’s friends, and ‘play’ is absolutely the word. Her humour, sense of fun and obvious affection for her subject made London Town joyfully atmospheric. If it were fair to rate theatre on atmosphere and experience alone, this was a five-star evening. But London Town is setting itself up as theatre, as it should; it now wants and needs to fully become this. Rogers is most comfortable in character and now needs to fully realise and differentiate her cast of Belle, Belle’s friends and antagonists. She also needs to find something bigger for this story to be about. Leaving one man and town for another town in which she finds a man in a club is a missed opportunity in plot and concept. Rogers has a great idea and a great stage presence, now she needs to raise the stakes, explore and develop a clearer, more necessary story to tell.

Other recent reviews by Rachel Knightley
The Tempest
Thoughtful, fearless and risk-taking Tempest by Rachel Knightley
Checkpoint Chana
Poet’s personal and professional self-destruction by Rachel Knightley
The Busy World is Hushed by Keith Bunin
Asking the biggest questions lightly by Rachel Knightley
Incident at Vichy
Eloquent creeping realisation of unimaginable by Rachel Knightley
The Ancient Mariner
Narrative poem in magical miniature by Rachel Knightley