Ginger Hibiscus | Ginger Hibiscus | Fiver at the Southwark Playhouse
Ginger Hibiscus | REVIEW: Fiver at the Southwark Playhouse
Ginger Hibiscus | Fiver at the Southwark Playhouse
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16 Jul REVIEW: Fiver at The Little, Southwark Playhouse

I haven’t reviewed for quite some time – not because I’ve fallen out of love with theatre, but because sometimes life just gets in the way. But I can still be found in the stalls, programme in hand and a glass of wine or gin or Diet Coke – or, if it’s a thousand degrees like tonight, maybe even a salted caramel ice cream. And with my “free” evenings feeling increasingly sacred, I’m more selective than ever about what I’ll “spend” an evening on. But tonight I saw a show that not only convinced me to throw a few hours at it, but which left me feeling compelled to write about it afterwards. One which got into my head and my heart in a way I didn’t anticipate.

Always keen to support and experience new home-grown musical theatre, and a self-confessed Southwark Playhouse junkie, I bought my ticket for Fiver on the strength of writing team Tom Lees and Alex Ellison. I think of Lees as half of the duo behind my pick of the Christmas 2014 season, the not-so-seasonal Apartment 40C which proved the perfect antidote for a death-by-chocolate period of panto and happily-ever-after, and Ellison a memorably talented cast member of the same production.

I obviously then had high hopes for the music, but I’ll admit myself sceptical of the concept, fearing the single thread of a five pound note being passed hand to hand might prove too subtle – or rather, too fragile – to emotionally invest in. My problem with Cats was always that no matter how spectacular the production, it felt like one long set of introductions, never quite taking off, as if you’d arrived at a party full of fascinating, diverse individuals, only for them to all leave as soon as you’ve realised how interesting they are. I feared this problem with Fiver, but needn’t have worried: there was always enough, never too much. I came away feeling I’d had a great conversation with each, as though I’d excitedly turned to the next without ever spotting the first sloping out the door.

Maybe it captured me because I’ve known so many of those characters, with their quirks and contradictions. I’ve been one or two – indeed I saw myself in some in ways I’d rather not. But the way the show doesn’t just wheel out the same tired old tropes (okay there are a few, but they’re firmly the exception rather than the rule), and rather embarks on nuanced observation in hilariously relatable ways, makes the whole thing come alive. The variety of characters mingling in the mixed economy of musical styles feels reflective of the “cultural melting pot” of our capital city; Lees and Ellison somehow establish and maintain a distinctive sound, with a score that looks and feels authentically, contemporarily London.

Authenticity is a funny thing. In musical theatre it’s like the faintest trace of rose hanging in the air – the harder your try to create it, the more artificial and overpowering it becomes. The more frantically you flap and try to grasp it, to keep it, the faster it dissipates. But Fiver just lets the scent dance through the air. Metaphorically speaking, of course. Nothing much smelt QUITE of roses in The (sweaty) Little tonight.

Writing aside, it’s a great production for the Playhouse’s most intimate space. A unanimously excellent cast – particular mention to Aoife Clesham, a voice I could listen to for days and sharp comic timing – seem to burst with affection for the piece, energetic and dynamic to the very last note.

My main complaint? The absence of a cast recording (!). But if the show is a glimpse into the future of musical theatre in our capital, we have everything to be excited about; in turns funny, poignant, with maybe a little more romance than I’d usually prefer, Fiver is certainly a crowd pleaser. A musical mirror in both substance and style.

And now I’m off to congratulate myself on swerving all of the oh-so-predictable, but oh-so-tempting pecuniary puns.

For tickets and information:
Venue: The Little, Southwark Playhouse
Dates: 3rd July 2019 – 22nd July 2019

Star Rating

Ginger Hibiscus don’t like using stars as a headline; we think they’re too reductionist, and that decision-making based on stars misses the point of a review. Just as you wouldn’t judge a personality using a five-point scale, theatre is multi-dimensional. So have a read, and then look at the stars afterwards.
Okay, fine, but how many stars do you give it? Click here