Aug 11 2019 | By More

★★★★☆    Raw and powerful

Gilded Balloon Teviot (Venue 14): Thurs 9 – Thurs 14 Aug 2019
Review by Sarah Moyes

It’s another success story for Edinburgh University Footlights as they put on an emotionally powerful performance of the classic rock music, Rent.

It’s been over twenty years since Rent, which is loosely based on Puccini’s opera La Bohème, first took to the boards. Judging by the huge queue round Gilded Balloon waiting to get in, it’s still as popular as ever today.

Michael Barker, Mimi Joffroy, Jack Roberts and Emily Williams. Pic: EUFootlights

Directed by Kirsten Innes, this latest production follows a year in the life of a group of young bohemian artists living under the bright lights of New York City as they struggle to survive amongst a constant battle of homelessness, drugs, HIV, and devastating loss.

Rent begins on Christmas Eve when we meet filmmaker Mark (Adam Makepeace) and musician Roger (Ben Gruenberg), squatters under threat of eviction by their former flatmate Benny (Michael O’Donnell).

Their struggle is evident straight away as Mark is struggling with heartbreak, having recently been dumped by Maree (Imogen Challen) who has quickly moved on with new partner Joanne (Anna Steen), and the pair fight to keep warm in the winter New York temperatures all while being unable to pay any rent.

It’s the colder winter weather that bring Roger and Mimi (Rachel Brown) together as she asks him to help her keep warm of the sweet ballad Light My Candle, before their relationship takes a darker turn as the story develops and her drug addiction takes its toll.

endearing relationship

The struggle the characters face is shown in all the relationships within the story and none more than the one between Tom (Fraser Mycroft) and Angel (Gordon Stackhouse) whose endearing relationship faces a tragic fight against Aids which takes everything they’ve got.

Adam Makepeace and Ben Gruenberg. Pic EUFootlights

One of the best things about Rent is the music, and the Footlights don’t disappoint as they let the music narrate most of the story. From the well-known numbers like the titular rock anthem to the tear-jerking Seasons of Love, the show is full of fantastic songs. The songs are supported by show’s ensemble – Mimi Joffroy, Emily Williams, Liam Bradbury, Michael Barker, Jack Roberts, Rebecca Joyce and Rebecca Maxwell – who are all excellent singers and put in some incredible solo vocal performances during the show.

Naturally, it wouldn’t be rent without Maureen’s performance of Over The Moon – and Imogen Challen is outstanding. If you’re familiar with this number, then you’ll know it’s a very over-the-top performance given at Maureen’s protest over plans to evict the homeless from the lot. But even if you’re new to the show you can tell how incredible it is, even if it is slightly odd.

The Teviot Hall works well as a venue, although the show would have worked better with an interval. Two hours in a sweltering room becomes a little too much towards the latter part of the show, when those with makeshift fans become the envy of everyone around them.

Otherwise, Edinburgh University Footlights have proven themselves to be a major contender when it comes to putting on strong fringe performances and Rent is no different – it might have a dark subject matter, but this strong production can’t help but be uplifting too.

Running time 2 hours 10 minutes (no interval)
Gilded Balloon Teviot, Teviot Hall, Teviot Row House, EH8 9AJ (Venue 14)
Thursday 8 – Wednesday 14 August 2019
Daily 7.30pm, 4pm (Saturday 10)
Twitter: @Footlights_RENT
Facebook: FootlightsRENT

The Cast of Rent. Pic Andrew Perry


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