Reminiscent of pop singer Kesha’s recent struggle with her producer Dr. Luke, Cat (Seána Kerslake) is an ambitious singer-songwriter who is exploited by her producer, Bernard (Ben Chaplin). The two speak to their psychotherapists, Vanessa (Jemma Redgrave) and Ramsay (Pip Carter), and revisit a relationship that was sometimes fruitful, other times tenuous, and other times deeply traumatic, until it results in a slew of legal actions. Kurt Egyiawan and the exceptional Neil Stuke are the lawyers that linger at the side, playing close attention to what their clients say.
Penhall weaves the storyline nicely and unearths the tension between creativity and capitalism, and how authenticity often jars with commercial success. Questions of how stories are weighted in the male-dominated music business abound, and particularly poignant is how frustrating it is for Kerslake’s Cat to get her voice heard by an industry that ironically exploits that very voice. Yet the pacing stagnates in a second half which is fraught with plot twists with multiple legal elements. And the characters are sometimes slightly too stereotypical for the tension to be fully realised.
Chaplin’s Bernard is quite possibly psychopathic, and Chaplin expertly gives him an icky charm and a massive ego. Kerslake’s Cat is also strong, but her character arc seems to plateau in the second half. The rest of the cast are good, but for a show about the intensity of making music, very little music is actually played throughout. More moments of creative intimacy would better root these relationships that are otherwise clearly unhealthy and toxic.
That said, Mood Music focuses more on the troubling dynamics found in creative relationship than it does on the intricacies of the music industry. Slick and at times cutting, it’s a play that may not result in earworm but will certainly stay in your head.
|What||Mood Music, Old Vic Theatre review|
|Where||The Old Vic, The Cut, London, SE1 8NB | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Waterloo (underground)|
27 Apr 18 – 16 Jun 18, 7:30 PM – 9:30 PM
|Price||£34.50 - £74.75|
|Website||Click here to book via Culture Whisper and See Tickets|