Nov 7 2014 | By More

★★★☆☆    Promises much

Traverse Theatre:  Thurs 6 – Fri 7 Nov 2014
Review by Hugh Simpson

There is no shortage of energy or infectious fun in Symphony, but in the end it lacks real depth.

Promising to combine the advantages of theatre, live music and stand-up, there is an undeniable vitality to nabokov and Soho Theatre’s show, reinforced by excellent performances and catchy music. However, there is an unfinished, brittle feel to the dramatic side of things.

Iddon Jones, Jack Brown, Liam Gerrard & Katie Elin-Salt in SYMPHONY, a nabokov & Soho Theatre production - photo credit Ludovic des Cognets

Iddon Jones, Jack Brown, Liam Gerrard and Katie Elin-Salt. Photo: Ludovic des Cognets

An accomplished cast of four play all the parts and also provide the music for three separate plays. Jonesy, by Tom Wells, tells of Jamie Jones and his attempts to pass GCSE PE despite his asthma and inability to play contact sports. Instead, he takes up netball.

This section, with its constant references to ‘sporting underdog’ movies, owes as much to stand-up as to theatre. Iddon Jones certainly achieves the necessary sympathetic persona and level of audience interaction in his performance. However, the brevity of the story contributes to both character and storyline remaining undeveloped.

All of which points to the whole performance’s main dramatic fault. The three plays seem to be ideas for longer works, sketched in rather than fully developed, relying too much on stereotypes at the expense of believable characterisation. In straight stand-up, these stereotypes could be mined for humour, but here the whole thing sits rather uneasily.

engagingly performed

A Love Song For The People of London, by Ella Hickson, is the slightest of the three pieces and seems not to travel too well outside the metropolis. The story of two unhappy souls on a London bus does not seem to go anywhere, and while it is engagingly performed by Liam Gerrard and Katie Salt, it fails to satisfy.

Jack Brown & Katie Elin-Salt in SYMPHONY, a nabokov & Soho Theatre production, Aug 2014 - photo credit Ludovic des Cognets

Jack Brown and Katie Elin-Salt. Photo: Ludovic des Cognets

Nick Payne’s My Thoughts On Leaving You is more successful, undermining rom-com clichés and almost managing to create stand-alone characters for Salt and the captivating Jack Brown. However, the reliance on familiar situations means that it never fully takes flight.

There can be no denying the energy and commitment that everyone concerned brings to the performance. The cast swap instruments throughout as they perform Ed Gaughan’s music – which is the most successful part of the production: adding drive and momentum to the playlets, utilising a variety of styles and linking the three pieces effectively.

Joe Murphy’s direction makes the most of the performers’ verve and versatility, keeping the pace and atmosphere consistent. There is just enough polish to make a cohesive whole without sacrificing the raw energy the music provides.

Calling the anthology Symphony shows an admirable ambition, and the combination of genres promises much. There is enough fizz here to fill up an hour at a festival; it would also surely be compelling in the sweaty club depicted in My Thoughts On Leaving You. However, as an evening’s entertainment in a theatre, it all seems too short and lacking in any real dramatic punch.

Running time 1 hour 5 minutes (no interval)
Traverse Theatre, 10 Cambridge Street EH1 2ED
Thursday 6/Friday 7 November 2014
Evenings 7.30 pm
Tickets from

Symphony on tour:

Soho Theatre
21 Dean Street, London W1D 3NE (Box Office 020 7478 0100)
8 November-7 December 2014. Details:


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