In an ingenious collaboration between Nabokov and Soho Theatre, Symphony has grabbed stuffy theatre by its plush velvet shoulders and given it a good shake and a twirl. Conceived with the intention of giving theatre a refreshing breath of life, Symphony most definitely delivers, and more.
With its minimalistic set featuring only the band and its instruments, one could not be blamed for thinking she has accidentally stumbled into an indie gig as the soft, slow jamming of the band lulls the audience as they walk in. The pared down set is wonderfully apt as it focuses the audience on the music and the storytelling. In a beautiful blend of live music ranging from quirky folk to rambunctious rock and roll, Symphony gives a soundtrack to each character’s tale, creating a heartwarmingly cinematic experience. If you’ve ever wished for a soundtrack for life’s big moments, Symphony is the play for you.
Symphony is clearly theatre that does not take itself too seriously and it is exactly that which makes it relevant to a generation that is suspicious of the loftiness and pretension sometimes associated with theatre. Music and storytelling ricochet off each other in this playful production and its brilliance lies in its ability to utilize music to convey the rawness of each tale without the contrivance and jauntiness of a musical. Symphony does for theatre what John Carney’s Once has done for cinema.
The versatility of the actor-musician quartet is nothing less than commendable. Iddon Jones’ seamless transition from smooth guitarist to bumbling, endearingly asthmatic Jamie Jones in Jonesy is superb. Jones brilliantly nails the optimism and awkwardness of adolescence, seeing wry humour in the disappointments of life. Katie Salt’s performance as the hopeful, bright eyed new-to-the-city Rose is wonderfully paired with Liam Gerrard’s portrayal of the awkwardly and hopelessly in love Londoner in ‘A Love Song For The People of London’. Jack Brown’s charming performance in ‘My Thoughts on Leaving You’ captures the dark and heart-rending experience of what happens when relationships do not turn out like the promises they bear in their arms at the start.
While the pacing is a little hurried at times, with not enough time for the poignancy of the stories to be felt, Symphony is the brilliant spark theatre has been looking for in an age where music speaks to us more than ever. This is not just “a love song for the people of London”, it is a symphony for anyone who has ever wanted to fit in, for anyone who’s felt the all too familiar sorrow of unrequited love, it is a soundtrack for those left brokenhearted by life.