Reviews

Rent at New Theatre Peterborough – review

Paul Jepson’s revival continues until 29 June, before transferring to the Queen’s Theatre in Barnstaple from 3 to 7 July

The cast of Rent at New Theatre Peterborough
The cast of Rent, © Louise Waldron

What a treat! A brand-new production of the greatest musical of all time (in my humble opinion) – Rent at the New Theatre in Peterborough. A story of hope in the face of struggle and adversity, a tale of friendship in a city that can feel lonely, and some of the most amazing songs ever penned, Rent really does have it all.

Set in New York City at a time when HIV and AIDS were decimating communities, Rent tells the story of a group of poverty-stricken artists trying to make a difference in the world and cope with everything that is thrown at them. It has key themes like facing adverse situations with positivity and caring for everyone regardless of gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation – which remain just as timely today. Jonathon Larson’s score tells a vitally important story.

Like any tale that utilises a narrative voice, the piece needs a strong storyteller. To this effect, Jack Reitman’s portrayal of Mark Cohen is wonderfully executed. Reitman catches the essence of Mark and his struggles in his addresses to the attentive audience, an imperative in this setup. Evita Khrime impresses as Mimi and Luke Friend has the perfect vocal range for Roger. In fact, the whole cast works tirelessly and there are some remarkable vocal performances throughout. My two personal favourite duets, “Another Day” by Roger and Mimi, and Maureen and Joanne’s “Take Me or Leave Me” are performed exceptionally. I almost sang “Take Me or Leave Me” alongside Idina Menzel at the Hackney Empire once, but that’s a story for another time.

The cast of Rent at New Theatre Peterborough
The cast of Rent, © Louise Waldron

A further aspect of this production that impresses is the set. It is clear, cleverly-used and features subtle but poignant digital projection. During the act two opener, “Seasons of Love”, there are images of AIDS victims that lend the subject matter a more realisitc and emotional impact. There has clearly been a lot of thought and care gone in to staging this incarnation of Rent, so kudos to director Paul Jepson and the whole production team.

Overall, a real triumph that everyone should have a chance to see. Listen to the lyrics and sentiment behind pretty much any of the songs, internalise them, and you will leave the theatre a better person. A well-deserved standing ovation concluded the show’s press night, proving that there should be many more productions of Rent across the country.

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RENT

Closed: 29 June 2024

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