No Horizon at Underbelly Med Quad (Venue 302), until 27 August.
Star rating: two stars ★ ★ ✩ ✩ ✩
This is a biographical account of Nicholas Saunderson, a blind boy, born into poverty who rose to become one of the greatest minds of the 18th century. That the story is not well-known is truly a pity, so due compliments to Andy Platt, a headmaster from Yorkshire, who has written No Horizon, raising awareness of this remarkable man’s life.
At best, this is an uneven production: the two central leads Nicholas (Sam Reid – striking similarity to a young Michael Ball) and Abigail (Sophie Bradley) have strong singing skills which are used to good effect. Others in the cast could benefit from firmer direction, stronger understanding of their characters and an appreciation of the strength of stillness onstage.
It may be that there is a longer book for this show which has been cut to fit with time limitations. However, by keeping in musical numbers that do not drive the narrative, the piece lacks cohesion. The musical accompaniment seems to be pre-recorded from synthesisers. This means that the singing performances can become stifled through a lack of flexibility.
The songs themselves are often in a minor key and are frequently ‘questioning’ songs dealing with loneliness and frustration. There is one rather bizarre song performed by Cambridge undergraduates which may be in homage to Gilbert & Sullivan’s patter songs, but develops neither plot nor characters. There is a beautiful ‘Angel’ song with sweet harmonies that hint at the potential here. The arrangements could also be more sympathetic and befitting period and characters.
To compare this show to Les Mis is doing neither piece any favours. No Horizon may well be a strong metaphor for a life without limits and should encourage further development of this work: it needs to decide what it wants to say more clearly, simply and with firmer objectives in mind.