WORTH A LOOK?: ****
WHERE?: Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith RUN TIME: 120 minutes (without interval)
WHEN?: 21/1, press night 24/1, booking to 16/2/19
Former pop stars have co-written our favourite new musicals of the last 2 years (Everybody’s Talking About Jamie and Eugenius) and so we approached this collaboration between Doctor Who writer Matt Jones and Bloc Party’s Kele Okereke with much excitement.
- Read on for reasons including why we think this deserves a West End transfer
Leave To Remain is the story of gay couple Obi and Alex who have the former’s Nigerian background and latter’s addiction issues coupled with the need for a visa to remain in this country to contend with.
Not The Drugs Talking is one of the opening songs and is 1 of the most convincing re-creations of clubbing we’ve seen on the stage since the long-forgotten Pet Shop Boys musical Closer To Heaven more than a decade ago.
Obi flashes back to his childhood during a song we think is called Shame and the action is made all the more affecting by the slo-mo style with which the cast complete the scene. Director Robby Graham’s background as a choreographer is well mined during the impressive dancing but also the almost balletic movement.
The supporting cast is very strong and Obi’s father’s obstinacy is brought vividly to life by Cornell S. John but the script has enough about it to make him wonderfully rounded and he earns some of the biggest audience laughs when a meal with the in-laws goes horribly wrong but not for the reasons you might expect.
Obi’s mum Grace (Rakie Ayola) sings beautifully on No Blue Skies and Alex’s mum Johanne Murdock has a chance to shine later as we begin to know more about her.
Obi’s sister is played by Aretha Ayeh and she’s strong in a vital supporting role. Both leads Billy Cullum and Tyrone Huntley (Olivier Award-nominated for Jesus Christ Superstar and who we last saw in Dreamgirls) convince as a couple and the latter, in particular, is a great singer while also being a character we found ourselves rooting for.
There’s always a baddie and watch out for Arun Blair-Mangat as Damien.
Overall we very much enjoyed Leave To Remain and, although we’ve never especially been Bloc Party fans, we think this deserves a much wider audience and a West End transfer. We were expecting great things – and we weren’t disappointed.