With gorgeous vocals, storytelling, and movement, Without is a delightful watch for those who love new musicals with depth.

With an original story, music, and lyrics by Ben Tomalin and book by Maisie Fawcett and Sophie Holmes, Without is a story of finding hope through friendship when you’ve given up on yourself. Rose (Marianne Steggall) is a teenage runaway who we see anxiously waiting to meet someone when she encounters an old school teacher Henry (Darragh Chaplin) busking and living on the streets. Over the course of a day they strike a friendship, learning about each other’s struggles and what they are ‘without’, helping each other to find hope again.

Once a concept album, Without had its original run at the Vaults Theatre (2022) and is now heading to the Edinburgh Fringe. I had the pleasure of watching the show in a one-off performance in The Studio at New Wimbledon Theatre. As you enter the space Rose and Henry have already begun their story, Henry’s strumming on his guitar and Rose are sitting and waiting. They are accompanied by an on-stage band of Tomalin & Josh Leigh, with the four ensemble members sitting in chairs along the sides of the studio, immersed in the audience. This piques the audience’s curiosity for what’s in store as you observe these characters before the show starts.

Within minutes of the show’s opening, I knew that I would love the musical numbers. The abundance of well-blended harmonies is delicious, combined with the pop/folk-esque sound and truthful lyricism compellingly delivers the story. Notably, I was impressed by Steggall’s captivating portrayal of Rose, and how she embodies the character with such ease. Chaplin’s rendition of ‘What If’ is particularly moving as Henry is expressing his fear of failing his daughter. ‘Take It Slow’ is a fun, uplifting song that utilises the ensemble, with a valuable message, featuring satisfying harmonies that left me with chills by the end of the number.

The show features excellent direction (Tomalin & Fawcett) and choreography (Fawcett). The ensemble members are utilised for transitions, to enhance the flow of the story through their bodies, and to embody the people in Rose and Henry’s life. In particular, Liv Koplick beautifully executed the choreography as she stepped into the character of Sarah (Henry’s wife) delivering the tale of their relationship through movement. The moment when she dances with Henry’s guitar highlights the absence of their relationship, showing an excellent use of props.

The lack of scenery doesn’t hinder the show at all, if anything the empty space brought focus to the actors, music, and props bringing the show to life. However, I am curious to see what set they do bring to Edinburgh.

It is hard to find fault in this show as the purpose of the show is clear and well executed. A few tweaks could be made here and there but the show is an excellent work in progress. I can’t wait to see where Without goes in the future, if you’re heading to the Fringe this is one not to miss!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Without is on at the Edinburgh Fringe from the 15th – 27th August at Underbelly Cowgate – find out more here!

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

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