Best described as part play, part gig, and part musical, BLOODY ELLE is a heart-warming and belly-achingly funny show about falling in love for the very first time
Fifteen months after it closed its doors due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre finally welcomes back audiences to its intimate in-the-round theatre, opening with a varied first season, including the world premiere of BLOODY ELLE – A GIG MUSICAL.
Set to an original score written and performed by Lauryn Redding, BLOODY ELLE is a one-woman show about falling in love for the very first time. It follows the life of Elle, a young, working-class Northern girl who falls in love with Eve, a soft-spoken Southern with posh hair and guacamole green eyes.
Best described as part play, part gig, and part musical, BLOODY ELLE – A GIG MUSICAL is a heart-warming and belly-achingly funny show about those stomach-flipping, time-stopping moments that everyone will recognise.
Director Bryony Shanahan makes good use of Royal Exchange intimate theatre, placing Amanda Stoodley’s raised set design centre stage, transporting the audience to a sweaty, packed out gig in the back of a pub. In contrast, Mark Distin Webster’s lighting design allows moments of focus as we transition from the loud workplace banter at Chips and Dips to the quiet and tranquillity of Eve’s posh pad.
Redding delivers a powerhouse performance, seamlessly switching between different characters with ease, warmth and humour. Her artistry, technical excellence and bravery truly shine through here as she beautifully conveys a story of love, pain, euphoria and transcendence.
Redding is also an incredibly talented musician, wheeling her guitar with ease, like it’s an extension of her body, as she single-handedly builds loops and layers of music and vocals to create the feeling of a full band on stage. The original score features a mix of genres, from fast-talking cheeky pop numbers, similar in style to Lilly Allen, to beautiful soaring ballads in which Redding’s vocal range truly comes to life.
Some of the songs are a little forgettable, and there’s a sense that the piece would flow better if it were cut down slightly and presented as one complete performance with no interval – like a real gig.
But these are minor criticisms that don’t take away from this vital and uplifting piece, which reminds us that love, however expressed, should never have to be hidden or whitewashed.
A joyous return to live theatre.
BLOODY ELLE – A GIG MUSICAL runs at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester, until 17 July 2021.
Donna is the Founder and Editor of Frankly, My Dear UK. By day, she works as a digital marketing specialist, by night she reviews film, theatre and music for a wide range of publications including WhatsonStage and The Reviews Hub. Loves Formula 1, prosecco and life.