35MM: A Musical Exhibition @ Bedlam Theatre
For a depressingly large chunk of the population, musicals are represented by BBC talent shows featuring Andrew Lloyd Webber on a throne, and the suggestion that they are art is exposed to the kind of derision directed to the same argument for video games. I implore that all doubters of the genre, as well as the converted, make their way to the Bedlam Theatre and give 65 minutes of their time to Ryan Scott Oliver’s truly exceptional musical 35MM.
Inspired by a series of photographs taken by Matthew Murphy, these unconnected musical vignettes perfectly capture moments, people, and the entire spectrum of emotions in the space of a song. The scenes on show are as varied as the photographs they derive from: a dad at his wit’s end over his young daughter, the fable of the abused wife, a couple’s relationship coming to an end, a demented high school girl’s fight to become prom queen. Each scene could easily become a full-length show in its own right, and you get the feeling Oliver could pull it off with aplomb. Witty, eloquent lyrics are combined with skilful versatility from just a piano and drum-kit, moving through a variety of musical genres with apparent ease.
Performed with skill and charm by the five hugely talented performers, this entirely sung through show takes a simple concept – the way we look at art and the ideas we conjure from simply looking – and spins a beautiful, innovative musical that will have you both laughing with warmth and familiarity and wiping away tears (this reviewer cried at least four times). 35MM represents the musical genre at the top of its game, at its most ambitious, and it is most certainly art.