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Streaming Review: Now Or Never

The Barn Theatre have proven themselves to be the unlikelty candidates for some of the most prolific and innovative pieces of virtual theatre over the last twelve months. Following the groundbreaking interactive The Secret Society of Leading Ladies, their creative director Ryan Carter is at it again - this time attempting to stream a new song cycle completely live with 7 characters moving between 7 spaces. This was either going to be a disaster or a triumph. But which was it?

Now or Never is a new song cycle written by Matthew Harvey. The premise of the show is that an Extinction Level Event is about to hit the Earth, meaning our cast are characters who know they only have a matter of days left on this planet and act accordingly. Perhaps not the cheeriest of topics on the surface but this manages to unearth some surprising reactions which evoke a series of strong emotions, primarily joy and optimism - not the emotions you would necessarily expect.

Bookended brilliantly by the legendary Janie Dee, posing as a newsreader, the song cycle whizzes past at a breezy 35 minutes - each of which is utterly captivating. Opening with show creator Matthew Harvey, he sets the bar high with the brilliant 'The Road' - he's not the only one who wants to spend his final week travelling - Courtney Stapleton and Eloise Davies have a similar reaction with their gorgeous duet 'As Far As We Get'. Other people have varying reactions - Ahmed Hamad quits his job in 'More to miles' but the most memorable and genius reaction comes from Katie Shearman in the life-affirming and utterly sweet 'I'm Getting A Dog'.

The songs are consistent in the fact they are all fantastic. It's short running time means it doesn't suffer from the one song of a lower standard than the others - with musical supervision from Freddie Tapner, all seven songs range from fantastic to phenomenal. The one song that just edges the others out to be the highlight of the show is the heartbreakingly emotional 'Next Time' sung flawlessly by Irvine Iqbal - in his final days, he reflects on what he should have done in a past relationship - the honesty of the lyrics are sung with real authenticity from Irvine to create one of the most raw, relatable and beautiful songs I've ever heard in musical theatre. The euphoric feeling in that song is nearly repeated when the seven cast members unite for an unforgettable finale where they ponder what happens next

If the songs weren't enough to make Now or Never special, the production of this pushes it to the next level. The tall order of filming it as one shot moving between seven different spaces and streaming it completely live felt needlessly risky. It would just take one false move from the cameraperson to delay proceedings. Instead, everything went off without a hitch. The use of one camera moving between the building allowed the viewer to feel immersed in the situation as if we were there walking with them. This created a whole other depth to virtual theatre that has not yet been explored elsewhere.

Unashamedly positive in these challenging times, Now or Never is instantly relatable for what we have all been through in the last 12 months. We may not be facing an Extinction Level Event but it sure has felt like it at times. A clever way to talk about the current challenges in pandemic times without actually mentioning the pandemic, this was a real clevel touch. The outward message of hope, optimism and sheer positivity was refreshing and exactly what is needed in such uncertain and often terrifying times.

An overly ambitious piece that was pretty flawless in execution. Stunning songs expertly performed resulted in a wonderful piece of virtual theatre that was among the best I have seen in the past 12 months. An absolute triumph for Matthew Harvey, Ryan Carter and The Barn Theatre - Now or Never is a very special show that deserves to be seen by the masses. Let's hope they decide to stream this again so more people can see this truly remarkable production.

One thing is for sure - there is definitely a future for Now or Never. It is definitely not in any danger of becoming extinct.


Now or Never was a one night only live event. Keep an eye out on to see if any encore screenings take place.


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