The one about a man stuck in a cave?
This musical with book by Tina Landau and Muris and lyrics by Adam Guettel is based on the real life events of 1925, when a man in his twenties, Floyd Collins, got his leg caught whilst caving in a labyrinth of caves in Louisville. A junior newspaper report 'Skeets' played with perfect wit and charm by Ryan Sampson was the only man who could fit and reach Collins. Sampson’s embarks on the biggest journey in this production as we see a skittish young man a little nervous, becoming a confident young man who wants to help a “friend” rather than write a story. The reports by Skeets from the cave brought the first ever media sensation resulting in a media frenzy of journalists and reporters descending on the town. Reaching across the whole of America the story of Floyd Collins made the news in every single state, making the reportings of Skeet’s a household name.
This production is produced to the very high standard by Peter Huntley and echoes that of a West End show, than that of a fringe production. The band led by Tim Jackson is outstanding, he leads this large orchestra of find talent and a special mention must go to Noa Bodner who recreated the southern American sound with her beautiful playing of the harmonica.
The setting for this production, a story about a man trapped in a cave is perfect as the Southwark Vaults allow the cavernous depths under London Bridge to create a dark, damp atmosphere. The actors also make great depth of this space, allowing them to mimic echoes down the vaults. With a ladder influenced design by James Perkins the cast scramble and clamber around the set to get a real feeling of how far Collins was from escaping his ordeal.
The vocals of the cast are strong with great harmonies and great solo performances, particularly the operatic delights of Robyn North who plays the sister of Floyd Nellie Collins with warmth and youthful naivety and Jane Webster as Miss Jane who steals many a moment as the step mother as her voice rings around the performance space.
Despite this high standard of the production, there is a limit to what can happen in a show about a man trapped in a cave. Obviously this musical is based on true events, although I'm assuming there were less group numbers, but the truth of it is, is that there isn't enough to keep the events exciting.
With no love interest or real need for Collins to be freed, his family get wrapped up loosely in a number that establishes their interest in the media storm. I just wasn't gripped, and upon the realisation from the programme that he didn't make it out alive, there really wasn't anything to hold out for. Perhaps I missed the point, but I just found it difficult to understand how the subject matter was ever brought to the stage. I clearly appear to be in the minority upon reading glowing reports from certain established critics, and I feel it is important to emphasise that I appreciate the effort, talent and standard of the production, unfortunately for me, the script and story just didn't conjure up enough interest to stay gripped as I sat on my uncomfortable chair in the dank depths of the Southwark playhouse.