Refreshingly Fluid: Smart Casual at The North Wall

"I’ll Google it”. Smart Casual ‘s tenacious and sprightly representation of a ‘Gen Z musical’ had its audience’s full attention from the first song. GOYA’s slick production had an enthusiastic send off for their transfer to London venues Above The Stag and The Cockpit Theatre over the coming month, boasting several sold-out performances. A sitcom about six friends drifting apart, the story managed to depict a snapshot into the fast-paced and high-stakes events that dominate young adults’ lives today.

Sam Woof’s script and direction held a resolute message of acceptance, with some very pleasing character development arcs and musical choices - with references to popular culture tropes like referring to Google for diagnosis in interpersonal crisis, as well as introducing his clear and colourful voice into new theatre. Vocally, the whole cast had great presence and technique and handled the intricate and harmonically complex score with only the odd off-note. Musically, the score felt almost borrowed at times with many motifs and phrases mirroring those from musical favourites like Rent, The Waitress and even In the Heights. Though I was expecting a little more diversity in the story’s representation of this generation, each of the characters felt actualised and confident, and though some of the lines were a little swallowed, a great momentum and pacing was kept throughout.

William Foxton played a charismatic Marc and shone with some of the best solos of the show, channelling a stage command much like a young Tim Curry in Rocky Horror. Darcy Dixon’s Mel also had great strength vocally and played her lead role with a knowing sense of control and self-assurance. Two of the characters with the most satisfying personal development came from Ben, played by Henry Waddon, the only character who seems to challenge the privilege of the rest of the middle-class friend group and also finds new passion with Marc after previously only dating women. The other character was Jordan, played by Jamie Murphy, who at first is presented as an Art-sceptic Tory-type and later matures into a thoughtful and approachable teacher. His development was sparked by the frenetic influence and love of chaotic Lily, played by Ellie Cooper, who achieves an admirable though a little unrealistic career trajectory of becoming a successful journalist for the BBC. Grace de Souza as ditsy traveller Willow added a softness to the group which made for some emotional and heartfelt exchanges too. Something that really took me aback was the accomplished sound of the five-piece band, led by Musical Director Livi Van Warmelo on keys, which lifted the whole production’s professional appeal to great heights.

Despite the show’s naivety, it emphasised a refreshingly fluid sexuality with its pairings and un-pairings and sang often of forgiveness and friendship being the most vital roles in their lives, acknowledging that drifting apart is often just a part of growing older. The only element of this narrative that left me feeling a little uneasy, given the multitude of references to Rent and La Boheme in its themes, songs and even its poster, Smart Casual seemed to lack the exploration of its characters’ class privileges. Seeing as though the show wasn’t attempting to hit a more dramatic note of triumph over adversity, and rather focuses on identity and friendship for lighter viewing, it does make one question why we are following these particular characters at this particular moment in their lives. Having said that, I think this show has the ambition and potential to kick-start some star-studded careers of both cast and crew and I look forward to seeing GOYA’s next projects.


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Find out more about the Smart Casual HCP project here.