Often when you go to see a musical, you may expect a complicated plot which takes at least 2 hours to unfold. In this way, Ordinary Days was completely different – the plot was just so… ordinary, and that made it so compelling! The show is based around four characters (Deb, Warren, Jason, and Claire) who are all at crossroads in their lives. They’re four ordinary people in New York simply living their lives, but yet by chance, just like a Monet painting where many thousands of ordinary dots intertwine to create a masterpiece, the four characters have a magical impact on each other’s lives at a time where all they want to do is get out. The simplicity of the plot allows for huge character development and exploration of the central theme: where can we find the value of life?
The cast were outstanding, with characterisation maintained throughout the performance and in all the songs, and from ‘One By One By One’ all the way to ‘Beautiful’, the vocals could not be faulted! It’s easy to go from laughing at Deb (Nora Perone) as she vents her stress and frustration in ‘Dear Professor Thompson’ to trying not to cry as Claire (Kirby Hughes) reflects on her past and considers her future with Jason (Alistair Frederick) in the emotional ‘I’ll Be Here’. Credit is also due to the one-man orchestra of Rowland Braché, who sits calmly at the corner of the stage and elegantly accompanies each song with ease. The stripped-down nature of the show allowed it to be beautiful and personal, mimicking the sensation of being right there in the lives of four strangers.
The staging too was rather simple – only a backdrop of the New York City skyline, with two black blocks which are moved throughout the performance to create different scenes. The minimalism of the set meant that the actors were very much the main focus, and similarly the gentle, obvious lighting ensured the audience remained fixated on the characters. The complete lack of props was a real testament to the versatility of the actors; in one particular scene, all four vividly simulated the New York Metropolitan Museum without any physical help, and yet the narrative remained crystal clear.
The main lesson of ‘Ordinary Days’ is one to treasure: while we may feel alone, and stuck in the world unable to see the path to our lives (or indeed how to get there), we can help each other, and (just like in the show) by doing so, consequently transform somebody’s life. The characters were so believable that it was so easy to understand them and their struggles, and while some of the the inspirational quotes from Warren such as ‘everything will be ok’ and ‘the key to success unlocks many doors’ seemed a little forced at times, the show is powerful and motivational at its core… I confess I took a paper quote from the floor to go on my university wall to remind me of this unique show and how we can all support each other. There is beauty in the ordinary day, and sometimes it’s better to take notice of that beauty (just like in Warren’s painting) than to constantly be seeking something bigger that’s often unachievable. Happiness can be found in your own fairy tale.
Ordinary Days is currently playing at the London Theatre Workshop until 17 June. You can buy tickets here.
The team are also really active on Twitter, so follow them @OrdinaryDaysLDN for updates on the production!
After the show, we were lucky enough to interview Nora Perone and Neil Cameron (who played Deb and Warren respectively), who both produced and starred in the show. Our interview will be up on our YouTube channel soon (we’ll update this post in due course).