On paper I was extremely excited by the synopsis of Exposure. An exploration of the power of photography, linked in with the idea of capturing the seven deadly sins. Having seen Jamie Lloyd’s interpretation of Dr Faustus earlier in the year I was really interested in how the dark side of temptation would manifest itself in this musical. These days new musicals are produced less often, and a plot focusing on both contemporary (the power of the media) and age old themes (the pressures of a father/son relationship) attracted me to this one in particular.
On this occasion however, the potential of the piece is held back by an underdeveloped script lacking real depth and skimming the surface of what ought to be a highly emotive piece of theatre. Granted the father/son relationship is tackled with more detail and thanks to excellent performances from Kurt Kansley – too briefly placed in the spotlight for a performer with such strong vocal ability and presence – and David Albury who despite looking great in his boxers, has more than enough charisma and passion to hold his audience without having to take his shirt off. A clearly excellent vocalist, Albury fights to find some depth in what is essentially cliched dialogue and unmemorable songs. What I found myself noticing more was the similarity of certain songs to the structure of established songs from well known musicals; Jimmy’s childhood presented as a modern twist on the early part of ‘Blood Brothers’ and a song somewhere in Act 2 vaguely resembling the temple scene from ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’. Unfortunately though, without the immensely talented cast, the majority of the songs would fall flat.
So to the cast…for the most part this is a group of extremely well trained, talented performers, giving their absolute all to generate energy which would mask the productions shortcomings. They work hard to execute Lindon Barr’s punchy contemporary choreography, a visual strength of the piece; and make what they can of the vocal challenges of some of the songs. The two female leads, Niamh Perry as Pandora the ambitious singer who falls into the abyss of addiction lacks impact in Act One, but produces a strong performance in ‘My Last Goodbye’ in the second half which only serves to prove how weak the material she has to work with is. Natalie Anderson’s Tara appears initially to be a modern day version of Eponine, but her relationship with Jimmy comes to a different conclusion. Anderson, like Perry, is a superb vocalist and she does manage to draw some sympathy from the audience. Tara is perhaps the role which contains some depth, drawing upon our sympathy for the struggle of the homeless. There is a cameo appearance from Michael Greco as Miles Mason, a corrupt PR guru who appears to personify the devil referencing the seven deadly sins. The characterisation appears to be a combination of Daryl Van Horne from ‘The Witches of Eastwick’ and Herod from ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ (another reference back to Lloyd Webber’s masterpiece). This is especially evident in the song ‘7even Deadly Sins’. Sadly Greco disappoints as he does not conjure the charisma of Jack Nicholson, nor the versatility needed to contrast evil with comedy.
Where the production excels is its collaboration with Getty images whose photographs dress the simple set. These support the idea that photography is a medium which can have a huge impact on those who see it. Whilst supporting the superficiality of the paparazzi and giving context to the serious reference points contained in the story, the images unfortunately reinforce the lack of impact contained within the script. Ben Cracknell’s lighting design although in places rather obvious, supports the design well and generates some moments of energy highlighting some key moments.
I went to the St. James genuinely wanting to love the production. So much time was spent ‘setting up’ in Act One that the reference to the Seven Deadly Sins, presumably a central part of the narrative, was skimmed over as an after-thought and given a throw away song. We reached practically end of Act One/start of Act Two before the suggestion was even introduced. It is such a pity that the strong cast have so little to work with, and I can only hope that any industry professionals in to see the show are able to recognise their talent through the high energy dance breaks and strong vocal ability. Unfortunately I'd be surprised if the production generates enough positive ‘exposure’ to go any further.