Don’t be fooled by the title of Joe (Blue/Orange) Penhall’s acerbic new play Mood Music (Old Vic Theatre), directed by Roger Michell, as it is all mood and precious little music.
In a top London recording studio, young Dublin-born singer-songwriter Cat, her producer, Bernard, who put an album together with songs by the pair of them, their lawyers and psychotherapists, go to battle over Bernard’s claim of sole credit for the hit single. Amidst a gathering storm of their complaints and brutal recriminations, Cat and Bernard inflict a devastating toll on each other in a war that only one can win.
Penhall asks the question: how can two people claim credit for one song? And his play endeavours to reveal what lies behind many a music-business court case. But it is a static, undramatic work, lacking both tensions and depth. Furthermore in a play centring on the authorship of a hit single, music for the most part seems to take a back seat.
Ben Chaplin endows the character of the worldly but calculating producer Bernard with a sadness that off-sets his inbuilt arrogance, while Seána Kerslake convinces as Bernard’s once guileless now angry prodigy, bringing light and shade to the exploited Cat by showing that she is seeking a vindictive triumph to compensate for her inability to satisfy her father’s dreams. Neil Stuke and Kurt Egyiawan as the lawyers, buzz around like flies while Jemma Redgrave and Pip Carter as the therapists, remind us of the perils of trying to stabilise creative talent.
But there is no denying this is a deeply disappointing play making little to cheer about for a theatre celebrating its 200th birthday!
Runs until Saturday 16 June 2018 at The Old Vic Theatre.
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