The programme for Spinach promises “thrills, abductions, pills, attraction [and] prescriptions”. For this (along with the cover art) you might be expecting a raw, gritty piece exploring a dark, seedy underworld of rave culture.
Yet, as a musical, Spinach turns your expectations on their head – not only of what the production entails but what a musical should be. As soon as the music starts comedy ensues, though distinctly of the black variety.
Kate (Cassandra Compton) and Tom (Ben Gerrard) wake up with amnesia, tied to each other, with no idea where they are or how they got there. As the plot unfolds, their memories return as they piece together the preceding events – with a little help from Maureen (Claire Greenway) and Darren (Craig Whittaker) who take part in alternative scenes out of the narrative time frame. The plot is absurd, its twists and turns as unexpected as they are unlikely, but it’s no less enjoyable for it. After all, musicals often require an element of suspending disbelief.
The musical style does not have the typical musical structure. Instead, it takes the form of speech-song, like an extended recitative. This is the source of much amusement (“the repetition of haloumi kebab” in song never gets old), though accompanied solely by piano, the music does become a little repetitive.
In keeping with the speech-song style, the fragmented melodies didn’t allow for long lyrical phrases to show off the voices of the performers. However, Compton certainly stood out for her vocal ability as the cutesy Kate, whilst the chiselled looks of Gerrard, best known for his work in Hollyoaks, made a suitable partner. Whittaker’s laddish Darren had plenty of comedy moments with Greenway’s Maureen – Greenway especially shone in hilarious fashion for both her singing and saxophone playing.
The cast as a whole should be commended for their sheer effort in singing constantly for eighty minutes without an interval. Yet Spinach is moreover impressive simply for confounding expectations – a musical-play filled with comedy and thrills in equal measure.
Written by a Thoroughly Modern Man, Ed Nightingale. Check out Ed’s blog, The Gizzle Review here.