The Southwark Playhouse
Thursday 6th September - Saturday 6th October 2018

There's a certain sense of irony in Carl Miller and Joe Bunker's 2018 musical retelling the lives of the Brontë sisters; whilst the title of the piece very much conveys the pure talents from the sisters that were wasted due to their untimely deaths before they reached forty, it could also be a used as a statement for us as the audience, feeling like our time has indeed also been wasted listening to a musical that very much repeats itself within its patterned musical numbers and a numbing running time over 140 minutes, which could easily have been cut to a one act production.

Whilst the history of the sisters and how they came to be known as some of literatures greatest writers is very much an empowering tale and one that shouldn't be undermined, turning this story into a rock ballad that bleeds through the eardrums from shouting instead of actually harmonising becomes tedious very quickly throughout. Molly Lynch and Natasha Barnes as Anne and Charlotte Brontë both inhabit their roles such such a degree that they equally shine on the raised wooden platform together, and it's clear this story is mainly about them, as Siobhan Athwal and Matthew Jacobs Morgan fall a little unhinged in the overall arc of the tale as the writing unables them both to flourish.

Whilst the music certainly feels harsh and unnecessary to evoke a story so defining as the success from the trio of sisters, the writing element in the spoken moments of the story does mostly at times hinge on sorrow and emotion. It's not long into the second act when the deaths of the characters must be touched upon, and whilst of course we have to see coming as this is a true story that needs to be told truthfully, Miller's writing does go the long way round prior to the heartbreak to get to the pure of the story, and that's where the lack of empathy for these characters derives from, feeling like we have wasted quite a lot of the time listening to a scratched record and not getting to the crux of the story.

Adam Lenson's direction mostly feels coherent, especially when bringing out a lot of enjoyment in the performers mannerisms and silliness, but at the same time feels limited to produce something that isn't just sitting on boxes or jumping up and down, mainly apparent due to the minimalistic design from Libby Todd, which consists of a wooden, squared platform in the centre, with thin strips running along each of the wooden panels to ultimately allow Matt Daw's atmospheric lighting design to seep through, which certainly gives Molly Lynch's solo performance in the second act a heightened sense of frustration, much like our attention span in listening to the same rhythm time and time again.

The climax of the piece, where Charlotte is the only sister left and found finally married, also feels a little bit meta by bringing the full company back one more time, in turn breaking the forth wall, and finally asking the all important question of if they indeed were wasted; for the empowerment of female writers to come, absolutely they were not, but was this production on the other hand just a little bit over the mark and presented in a genre that felt churned just a little bit too much to hysteria? I think there might possibly be differing judgements to that one.

Overall, Wasted sees Barnes and Lynch excel in performance and musical talents, but sadly the script doesn't cohere to the rest of the company, who fall by the wayside, in a musical that bleeds rather than coherently telling a story that so many are familiar with, and would inspire future generations of female writers.


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