The Distance You Have Come, Cockpit Theatre
This song-cycle shows us the downs and ups of being young and on the look out for love in London, but has little new to say.
Drawn from eight albums-worth of songs by Scott Alan, this production delivers strong performances from a superb cast. Unfortunately this is not enough to anchor an otherwise meandering production in which no truly unique offering ever really emerges.
The opening song is a cascade of fairy-tale cliches, the banality of which may well be deliberate (dare I say, even ironic?) but which, right at the beginning of the production, is still unearned.
A few throwaway lines in the first act give hope that there is a developing theme of traumatic adulthood driving the characters to take refuge in the solace of childhood memories, but it never really goes any further than that, which leaves the rest of the show treading familiar ground of heartbreak and hope, with little new to say.
Some elements of this song-cycle are, however, welcome. The most straightforward relationship featured in the play is between two gay men, and two female characters explore their sexuality in a less linear fashion. More diversity in London’s self-portraiture is always worth celebrating.
Individually the songs deliver some high points, including superbly performed comic numbers from Jodie Jacobs which, like the best comedy, find their own kind of poignancy. Act two opens with a well-judged piece that echoes Stormzy’s “Blinded by your grace”, and a song that returns repeatedly to the tentative suggestion, “I was hoping you’d take a walk with me?” perfectly captures the moment as one of the characters, a recovering alcoholic, tries to rediscover his self confidence.
The cycle is at its best in these two modes: poignant and comic. This meant that the conclusion was particularly out of place, and left me wondering what, exactly, I’d been watching for the last two hours.
It can be traditional to end a mixed review like this by suggesting the production under consideration might be “one for fans of the genre.” The Distance You Have Come is, I suspect, one for fans of the composer.