July 08, 2016

Exposure the Musical – Life Through a Lens Will Steal Your Heart and Soul

Interviewing the cast of Exposure: from left, Michael Greco (Miles Mason), Niamh Perry (Pandora), Natalie Anderson (Tara), and David Albury (Jimmy Tucker), photo courtesy of EJ Stedman
             To be let into the inner sanctum of a cast’s rehearsal space for a new West End show is a rare occurrence. Rarer still is being able to meet the actors and the writer behind all of the magic, the one who has set their “baby” off into the world not knowing whether we’ll embrace it or reject it. Yet, I’m able to say that’s exactly what I did this week, and I embraced it with open arms like I know the rest of you will too.

             I took a trip to Brixton Community Base for an exclusive look at the all-singing, all-dancing members of Exposure The Musical – Life Through A Lens. This new production will make its world premiere at the St. James Theatre on July 16th, where I have previously seen the musical Urinetown (read my review here) and the play McQueen, inspired by the late, great fashion designer Alexander McQueen. Not a theatre to shy away from taking on gritty storylines, the St. James will be pleased to add Exposure to its repertoire.

From left, Kurt Kansley (Jimmy's father), Andy Barke, Manny Tsakanika, and Jahrel Thomas (all ensemble) get snapping, photo courtesy of  Pamela Raith
             Exposure is set in 2006, during Tony Blair’s Britain. Our main characters are photographer Jimmy Tucker (David Albury), his childhood friend Pandora (Niamh Perry), and his love interest Tara (Natalie Anderson). He is attempting to follow in his deceased father’s footsteps, no mean feat considering he was widely respected for his craft. Jimmy’s just returned from capturing horrific images of war in Sudan, leaving him with a posttraumatic syndrome. One day, he encounters a stranger called Miles Mason (Michael Greco). The devil in disguise gives him an “offer he can’t refuse” and he embarks on a 24-hour mission to photograph the seven deadly sins. Forget Las Vegas, London is about to become the new Sin City when residents are caught in the act.

Main characters Tara (Natalie Anderson) and Jimmy (David Albury), photo courtesy of  Pamela Raith
             I took my seat in the front row before the preview began, with the actors performing right there in front of me. No seat in any theatre could do it justice! It doesn’t get much better than being introduced to the musical numbers by none other than writer Mike Dyer, who has been working on this special project for years. Along with his co-writers, he also produced the music and lyrics, of which we heard “Eyes of the World,” “Love Comes Knocking,” “Bandit Country,” “Last Goodbye,” “Father’s Lament,” and the finale, “Rainmaker.”

The cast performing the finale, "Rainmaker"
             Dyer’s evident attachment to the music was poignant to say the least. He explained that the reference to “life lines” in “Father’s Lament” signified the identical life line that his father who passed away, his son, and he all share on their palm. At the heart of all of the songs is a rock ‘n’ roll soul that’s been around the block a few times, which makes it a unique musical feat. The dancing is also just as supercharged, combining elements of street dance and classical styles, with choreography by Lindon Barr. The production possesses the ability to change with the times in an organic way, which means Exposure The Musical we see this month might not be the same Exposure The Musical we see on its next tour.

Director Phil Willmott and writer Mike Dyer with David Albury and Natalie Anderson, photo courtesy of Pamela Raith 
             While we didn’t see any of the set elements during rehearsal, “Bandit Country” will be sung against the backdrop of the London skyline as Jimmy and Miles are high up in the Eye. In a perfect partnership with Getty Images, Exposure is about being exposed to the bombardment of media images, so expect lots and lots of visuals – starting with the posters you see on your tube journey advertising the musical.

             Dyer believes that the person behind the camera can lose their soul. Jimmy grapples with this problem when he realizes that instead of helping the people he photographed in Sudan, he documented their dire situations with a shutter click. Various cultures hold the opposite belief to be true – that your soul is stolen when a photo is taken of you. In fact, paparazzo is derived from the Italian word for mosquito. Are they not both bloodsuckers? 

Better the devil you know...Michael Greco as Miles Mason, photo courtesy of Pamela Raith
             I am captivated by the notion of the seven deadly sins in Exposure. I asked the main cast members what they personally think is the worst to be guilty of. 

Michael Greco (Miles Mason): I really hate it when people are greedy, not in the sense of food, but in the sense of what they want from life. I’m very much a sharer. I like to share things and help people out, helping someone upstairs with their bag on the tube and stuff like that. Greed is, for me, the worst sin.

Niamh Perry (Pandora): I don’t like anger. I think I used to lose my temper a lot more, so as I’ve grown slightly older, I’ve learnt to control it. If we were going to go for any of the good ones, they would be lust and pride.

Natalie Anderson (Tara): I think envy’s dangerous, especially in this industry. Envy is quite a dangerous thing to feel or have. Everybody’s got their own thing and you just do you and that’s it, so that’s a scary one for me.

David Albury (Jimmy Tucker): I’m not a massive fan of gluttony, because it’s that idea that you can constantly do something to yourself without realizing the effect that it’s having on you. That, I think, can be very dangerous for anyone.

             I think we’ve all indulged in one or more of the deadly sins at one point or another in our lives, so go ahead and indulge in Exposure. It’s going to be sinfully good.

             Exposure The Musical – Life Through A Lens is playing at the St. James Theatre from July 16th until August 27th. Book your tickets here.

Say cheese!, photo courtesy of Pamela Raith

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