RENT is the inaugural St Catz Drama Society musical, and a great way to kick off a new tradition. It was clear from the extensive cast and crew that a lot of work had gone into the production, and the result was an impressive, high-energy show.

RENT was grounded in strong musical performances, with a talented band, and an ensemble whose voices were showcased to great effect in the large musical numbers. These included the powerful harmonies of the opening song “Rent” and the full-cast “Seasons of Love”, or in smaller chorus sequences such as the support group scene. Vocally, aside from the occasional wobble, the cast were strong, and the singers shone in impressive solos, which showcased their musical and emotional range. With her powerful voice and self-assured command of the stage, Lucy Jones was excellent as Mimi, while Patrick Cole, playing opposite her as Roger, brought a heartfelt sincerity to their scenes together. Alex Waldman was fantastic as Angel, combining great stage presence with impressive vocals and confident, energetic movement, and Jack Whitney gave a moving performance as Collins; his solo was a highlightAs Maureen, Róisín McCallion demonstrated an impressive commitment to her character’s avant-garde performance art during her solo “Over the Moon”, which combined quick wit with quirky movements and a kind of frantic energy. In her duet with Joanne (Lydia Ciaccio), their powerful voices complemented each other effectively.

Occasionally the staging felt a little awkward, with untidy or repetitive movement sequences detracting from the impact of the central action. However, the space itself was used to great effect, with scaffolding towers, decorated with 80s album covers and set against the exposed brick of the auditorium wall, creating an appropriately artsy, urban feel, and offering a flexible backdrop to the changing action and locations of the story. The cast inhabited the stage with obvious enjoyment and confidence, filling the space and swinging off the scaffolding, while thoughtful direction made the most of the available levels and areas of the stage, and combined with atmospheric lighting choices to differentiate effectively between scenes and characters.  The design teams should be congratulated for their work; transforming a lecture theatre into a performance space is no mean feat, and they rose to the challenge admirably. Overall, RENT is a powerful, enjoyable show, and a testament to the hard work of all those involved.