Review: Now or Never, Barn Theatre (online)

Over the past year the Barn Theatre has been bringing audiences innovative digital productions, streaming the likes of Peter Pan, the incredible What A Carve Up! and A Picture of Dorian Gray (co-produced with Lawrence Batley Theatre, New Wolsey Theatre, Oxford Playhouse and Theatr Clwyd) and the Bandersnatch-esque The Secret Society of Leading Ladies. And the Barn’s creatives have once again raised the bar with its latest production, a one-off one-shot Now or Never. 

Written by the Barn’s associate artist Matthew Harvey, this 40-minute show tells of a time when the world is preparing for armageddon, and follows seven people as they take a defiant act of positivity during their last week on earth. Now or Never features a strong line-up, including Ahmed Hamad, Matthew Harvey, Eloise Davies, Courtney Stapleton, Irvine Iqbal, Lucy St Louis and Katie Shearman, who play the various relatable characters, from a man doing up a motorbike to set out on the road, a couple travelling to Paris despite the closed boarders, and a woman adopting dogs. Lots and lots of dogs. 

Now or Never is a song cycle with a twist. Filmed in one continuous shot, the camera sweeps through the entire Barn Theatre building, capturing the seven performers as they move between the spaces. Creative Director Ryan Carter’s idea is incredibly creative and works a treat, with Director of Photography (supported by Ben Thomas and Alex Tabrizi) making the audience feel as though they are in the room with the characters. 

The soundtrack features a mix of upbeat and rockier songs and gentle, thoughtful tunes with musical supervision from Freddie Tapner of the London Musical Theatre Orchestra. The songs all portray the varying emotions of the piece. Irvine Iqbal’s solo is particularly heart-wrenching as he plays a man reflecting on his memories, while Katie Sherman’s song about buying dogs is joyful and light-hearted, bringing a touch of humour to the piece. Every single cast member shines, but the highlight has to be when all seven unite to perform the final song, with a poignant reminder that ‘today is for the taking’, a beautiful number which is sure to leave you reaching for the tissues. 

Although Now or Never wasn’t written specifically about the coronavirus pandemic, this show is sure to resonate with many. This is a thought-provoking show with a message of hope at its heart, and is incredibly timely what with the UK slowly emerging from its most recent lockdown and theatres in England hoping to open their doors next month. Now or Never is an ambitious and stunning production with a beautiful soundtrack and seamless cinematography. This may have been a one-off production but hopefully this isn’t the last we’ve seen of this incredible show. 

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Photo credit: Jenya Steanson

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