As things slowly reopen and a sense of normality slowly returns, we are seeing the emergence of new musicals and works - many of which were conceived during the prolonged interval we have just endured. From Here is one of these titles.
Created by Ben Barrow and Lucy Ireland, its relevance stems from its creation as From Here was entirely written over Zoom. A blur between a song cycle and a musical, all the songs have an overarching theme of looking for new starts and happy endings when we may be missing something in the middle of the moment. The quest for the perfect ending became the perfect metaphor as Barrow and Ireland contemplated how we navigate our way out of the pandemic.
The creative team behind From Here have shown extreme resilience to keep the show going. Like so many other shows, they have been hit hard during the pandemic and have suffered multiple setbacks since theatres began to re-open - the company had to self-isolate cutting their rehearsal time in half, on the night I went, two of its four cast members had to self-isolate, meaning Barrow and Ireland had to go on in their place, and even the shows producer Dominic Gray had to step in as the lighting operator. If we talk about how the show really must go on, From Here really is the perfect example of this, Showing extreme resilience, they found a way to keep the show going - and boy am I glad they did.
On to the show itself, the four cast members play a variety of characters as they find their way through different situations. Fairly straightforward, right? What sets From Here apart is the kinds of situations and relationships we witness are not the typical ones we usually see, Narratives including two children becoming best friends and falling out in the space of three minutes, two housemates expressing their mixed emotions at no longer living together and dropping your child off at university make this a far more interesting experience.
Ben Barrow and Lucy Ireland fill in for Aidan Harkins and Nicola Espallardo. The chemistry the pair have is clear for all to see, and the affinity they have for the songs they wrote made this show feel even more special than it might usually be, with highlights including a beautiful duet 'If The World Could End Tonight'. They are joined by Andrew Patrick Walker who shines in the variety of characters he plays including a hilarious number early on where he prematurely shares his unrequited love for another character. One of the standout moments in the show comes from his 'The Monster Under The Bed' where he sings about OCD in a stirring performance which showcases his incredible voice perfectly.
The cast is completed by &Juliet and Six Queen Grace Mouat who shows extreme versatility in her characterisations, playing undoubtedly the biggest characters of the evening. Her highlights include 'Recipe For The Perfect Start' where Grace's joyous persona gets tested along the way - watch out for her smacking a Pret cup out of someone's hand for pure theatre joy. She has a tender moment in one of the shows final numbers 'After You' where she sings about the loss of her mother, but the standout performance of the whole evening comes from '7.30pm (The English Teacher's Soliloquy)' - a huge number filled with a quick change and more theatre references than you can shake a stagey stick at. Pure joy to watch, it was a breath of fresh air and tested the limits of what a small show in a little theatre can achieve.
The songs are what really makes From Here stand out. Clever and witty, emotional at times and regularly laugh out loud funny, the fast pace of the show means they are relentless. As we move from one scene to the next, we barely have time to acknowledge the amazing performance we have just witnessed before we are transported somewhere else to do it all again. The numbers are interspersed with each of the four characters delivering a brief monologue as they ponder that age old interview question of where do you see yourself in 5 years time.
I've been to a fair few of these smaller shows but From Here is by far among the best. Its charm is its simplicity. Great performances from a stellar cast in an evening that takes a few unexpected turns. This is a show that has a great deal of potential. If the message of this was wondering where you go from here, the future definitely looks bright for this show.
Special shoutouts for the progressive way they list the pronouns for everybody in the cast, creative and crew in the programme - let's hope more shows follow suit. And also for the amazing team at Chiswick Playhouse who kept spirits up even as we suffered through flooded stations to get there!
From Here runs at the Chiswick Playhouse until August 7th. Tickets are available from https://www.chiswickplayhouse.co.uk/fromhere
Photos by Lucy Gray