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A Review of ‘Company’ from the Northcott Production

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Exeter chapter.

I was granted the opportunity to see the musical performance of ‘Company’ at the Northcott Theatre. Having decided to go very last minute, I did not know much about the musical itself, and my expectations were very vague. Even so, I was quickly impressed.

One of the first scenes is between the couple, Sarah and Harry. This scene set the bar incredibly high for the remainder of the musical. Though the couple’s dynamic balanced precariously between playful and taunting, it quickly became both comedic and heart-warming as they were prompted into fighting karate. While brawling could pose difficulty in not truly injuring one another but not appearing to be simply going through the motions, the actors were amazing in their portrayal of this, paralleled just as much by Robert’s passive-aggressive comments and expressions from the background integrating him just as much into the scene.

Larry and Joanne’s scene exists in opposition to Sarah and Harry’s, as it closes the play, and their scene borders from sweet to sour in comparison. Larry’s explicit devotion and care from the start, counters Sarah’s taunting and is returned only by Joanne’s disregard for him. It is a difficult dynamic to portray, but both actors were successful in their role. Robert’s increasing alienation from his friends, as a result, was just as arresting, and echoed my own discomfort from their interactions as an audience member. The details, down to Joanne’s shaking hands, speaks for the actors’ ability to immerse the audience into the illusion of their characters and their relationship.

I am not sure how much ‘Company’ as a play itself was for me. Its message appears a bit circular and comes across jaggedly through disjointed encounters with no particular order. One of the overarching questions the play considers is ‘What is marriage’? I did not leave feeling satisfied with a coherent answer to this question. However, I feel this only serves as a testament to the cast’s talent, as the showmanship kept me ensnared and rooted to my seat. While it is usually easier to remember overall scenes or feelings evoked from a play, the casts’ talent and attention to detail rendered the illusion of reality to the extent that specific dialogue has remained with me since. Peter and Susan’s not-quite-a-divorce divorce allowed for comic relief not only in the content of the play but in their portrayal of it. The juxtaposition of what they were saying to their body language, and their loving but just separated dynamic which made sense to no one but them is best summarised by Marta’s exclamation: “Now that’s New York.”

During the intermission, the first thing I said to my friend was how impressed I was by the vocals. While I understand vocals can be coached and taught, I had been more prepared for the acting to be the feature that stood out from years of practice, with the singing more innate and varied. Instead, it seemed every cast member managed to stand out individually (not to mention in the chorus as well) without particular weakness through comparison, but only continuing to maintain my newly high expectations. However, special attention has to go out to the lead Robert, whose solos somehow only got better and better and demonstrated an impressive range of abilities (especially when combined with the acting performance) which peaked in the final performance, leaving the show on a high note.

The musical number that stood out to me the most, however, was “Getting Married Today”, which after speaking to other audience members after the show, I discovered is also one of the musical’s most famous numbers. It was a tall order but was successfully delivered with no hesitation. The manic and frazzled body language (including tackling of other characters) was done without sacrificing the vocals, and was incredibly funny. Even from such high energy, the following calling off/on of the wedding was still given the correct tone and due attention despite this quick turnaround.

The last thing I would like to address is the gender bending. As it is a show heavily steeped in feminine and masculine stereotypes, it was interesting to see how they reflect or exist when given to an alternative gender. While I am unsure to what extent the musical worked with these concepts and expanded on what these reversals were challenging or changing about the original text, I do believe it is a step in the right direction. I feel it was worthwhile and made the play more modern and accessible in portraying different modes of gender representation. It also felt more realistic and relatable in our world today to portray relationship constructs beyond the heteronormative bounds. What can be sure (especially when paired with the costume design indicating their original roles), is that it challenged any argument that pronouns are simply too hard to understand and make everything more confusing, especially when normalised both within the play, and to its audience members.

An English student in her final year in Exeter taking the chance to write something other than an academic essay.