Review by Daz Gale
When you think of the phrase ‘No Limits’ you might think of the classic song from forgotten 90’s duo 2 Unlimited (Yes I’m showing my age here. No no, no no no no, there’s no regrets) but there’s a new challenger for what comes to mind on hearing those words as a brand new song cycle pitches up at The Turbine Theatre in Battersea called… erm, No Limits. New song cycles aren’t an everyday occurrence – perhaps because they can be harder to get into than a conventional musical and don’t always land in the way that was hoped. With that in mind, was this song cycle limited in its approach?
Written by Sam Thomas, No Limits is set in one London apartment with a variety of residents played by a cast of five. All the songs are seemingly unrelated to each other, however they share a common theme of feeling like you are falling behind in life, not where you need to be when compared to others and the feeling that you need to make a change. These are moments that can change each characters life and touch on a variety of themes though the most common are relationships – often romantic but occasionally more varied such as that of roommates or a family member.
Each of the cast of five appears multiple times throughout performing different numbers. While presumably they are different characters each time, each of their performances shares similarities which could be a consistent characterisation. The show boasts West End royalty including Natalie May Paris swapping her crown in Six to portray #Dreamer. Hannah Lowther leaves behind Westerburg High to appear as #Catfish, Michael Mather is #Fighter, Mary Moore is #Funemployed and Owen Clayton is #Romantic. All five deliver consistently sensational performances, adding real character to their individual and joint musical numbers.
Any good song cycle needs to make sure the songs are as limitlessly spectacular as possible, and this is one of the biggest strengths of No Limits. Starting from the opening group number ‘Everybody’s Winning at Life But Me’ which introduces the overarching theme of the show, the standard remains consistently high right up until the closing numbers. Highlights include Owen Clayton’s painful but funny ‘Headf**k’ and Hannah Lowther’s ‘Confessions Of A Catfish’. In Michael Mathers ‘Like I’m Alive’ his astonishing vocals are joined by what can only be described as Bearography in a surreal but satisfying sequence.
As well as each having the opportunity to show off their individual talents in solo numbers, the cast also get to pair together in some of the most memorable moments of the night. Mary Moore and Natalie May Paris have an undoubted highlight in ‘Another Thing Comin’ which reminded of an anti-The Boy Is Mine (Brandy & Monica) while Owen Clayton and Michael Mathers Ballad of the One Night Stand was another standout. Of the big group numbers, it’s act 2 opener ‘Kinky’ that will get you the most hot and bothered with its playful nature.
The biggest moments of the show belong to Natalie May Paris. While her first solo number ‘Every Girl Needs A Mother’ provided the most tender and emotional moment of the show, it was her performance of the shows title number ‘No Limits’ that really brought the house down. Already widely regarded as a phenomenal performer (Do we even need to mention ‘Heart of Stone’), pair her up with an incredible song and watch her take it into the stratosphere. A complete masterclass performance and one that deserved a never-ending applause.
What makes the musical numbers in No Limits so sensational is its relatability. Sam Thomas has crafted songs that penetrate the soul – we have all had moments like the ones being talked about, no matter how over the top some of them may seem. Sams music and lyrics are top level and allow for the cast to masterfully interpret them. Ella Ingrams fantastic musical direction and supervision realises these numbers effortlessly.
Dean Johnsons expert direction makes these musical numbers come to life with always interesting and often exciting staging for each one blending beautifully with Rhys Wilkinsons choreography ensuring No Limits is always a joy to watch.
The set design by Justin Williams beautifully recreates the nondescript apartment and makes the whole affair seem intimate and homely, while there is some great use of lighting from Alex Musgrave. Keep an eye out for the video screen by the stage which adds a touch of hilarity to each number.
Watching No Limits hit the stage for the first time, I couldn’t help feel I was watching the beginning of something special. Having a high quality collection of songs that instantly resonates such as the ones here would be a dream for anyone attempting to make theatre. The fact these were performed flawlessly by a truly wonderous cast alongside some impressive only added to how fabulous this production is. Unashamedly joyous even in the more emotional of moments, I expect No Limits could go on to do some big things. With a show as stunning as this, its future really is unlimited.
No Limits plays at The Turbine Theatre until 26th February. Tickets from https://www.theturbinetheatre.com/whats-on/no-limits
Photos by Danny Kaan