There is no limit to the amount of talent both on stage and off at The Turbine Theatre with “No Limits – A Song Cycle” by Sam Thomas
Examining the tumult and upheaval of early twenties, No Limits concerns itself with big moments. It has no need for any of that messy linear plot business, or scenes, so it does away with it – and it makes perfect sense for this collection of songs geared around this particular theme. Throughout No Limits, the audience are introduced to an assortment of characters within the bounds of Justin Williams’ brilliantly realised studio apartment set design as they tackle monumental, life changing decisions and moments.
Much like Songs for a New World – with which No Limits shares a common intent – as well as It’s Only Life and Millennials, the incredible quintet of performers at the heart of the action do not literally portray the same character within every musical number that they appear in…unless we are to believe that these characters have a far more exciting and eventful early-twenties journey than this particular reviewer did.
In that respect, they are blank slates to relay Sam Thomas’ spectacular score and create a fresh world within each musical number. Whether it’s the all-too-relatable feelings of inadequacy that comes with the comparative nature of social media (“Everybody’s Winning at Life But Me”), a lament against being ghosted (“Headfuck”), insecurity in the burgeoning stages of a relationship (“Everything You’ll Ever Need”), battling with grief (“Every Girl Needs a Mother”), wanting to take full advantage of life and realise your dreams (“Like I’m Alive”), taking revenge on a philanderer (“Another Thing Comin'”), overcoming a breakup (“Anymore”), a taut and sexy one-night stand (“The Ballad of The One-Night Stand”), dreaming big (“Fly”), getting a little naughty in the bedroom (oh, we all do it) (“Kinky”), navigating friendships once you move apart from each other (“The End of An Era”), confronting your parents for their inadequacies (“Grow Up”), catfishing your attractive neighbour (“Confessions of a Catfish”), finally quitting that job (“Two Weeks”), putting an end to your comfortable, long-term relationship after realising it’s not working anymore (“Call Time”) or finding your own agency and power (“No Limits”), each song tells a complete story and is stunningly constructed. Within this, there’s also a brilliant balance between the uplifting and energetic compared to the still and downright heartbreaking. The nature of each of these musical numbers as existing within entirely separable universes is entirely the right decision for this piece, allowing each moment to be as emotional and impactful as possible.
Each song and musical number are so different that it’s tricky to draw comparisons or even to single out favourites as there simply isn’t a weak one in the entire bunch. This seems to be a recurring theme throughout the production, in fact as it truly feels as if all of these creatives are working brilliantly in concert to create something truly magnificent. The set, as mentioned earlier, by Justin Williams is the perfect backdrop for this storytelling. Consisting of a glorious window, a table, chair, sofa and some potted plants, it is brilliant for its simplicity and exactly right for a space such as the Turbine Theatre. There is also a screen propped up against the wall, which is entirely unassuming at first glance, until it changes throughout the musical numbers. This was a nice touch, though potentially could have been used more effectively as one imagines that this may have been lost for many audience members who were maybe sat further away from the action.
The sound design (Richard Carter) was also brilliantly realised , allowing for the coupling of the cast’s incredible vocals and Ella Ingram’s spectacular band to fill the entire space. Rhys Wilkinson’s movement direction was also highly effective, especially within the breathtaking “The Ballad of the One-Night Stand”. This particular moment is so atmospheric, with the band, lighting, acting performances and movement working so brilliantly together that it almost seems to stop time.
That brings us onto the performers. As mentioned earlier, all of their ability to create an entire world within the realms of one song is a testament both to their own talent and also to Dean Johnson’s direction. Mary Moore is a ball of giddy energy throughout and is immensely fun to watch. Hannah Lowther creates brilliant depth in her assortment of songs and demonstrates that she is just as capable of tugging on heartstrings as she is with her comedic timing. Owen Clayton definitely leans into their #romantic title, imbuing their performance with a fantastic yearning that is infinitely captivating. Natalie May Paris is known for serving vocals for days, and on this she most certainly does not disappoint, to the tune of much whooping and cheers. She is able to hold the audience in a vice-like grip just from the power of her voice alone. Her control is absolutely fantastic, and she uses it with monstrous effect. Michael Mather also demonstrates tremendous range. There’s something incredibly enthralling about his performance, something almost haunting and tortured behind the eyes that merely adds to the storytelling, not to mention his rich, seemingly effortless vocals. Apart, each cast member is stunningly talented, but together they are a force to be reckoned with.
With “No Limits” only running at the Turbine Theatre until 26th February, this is thoroughly unmissable theatre, and here’s hoping that the future of this production truly “knows no limits”.
No Limits runs at the Turbine Theatre until 26th February 2023. Tickets can be purchased here.