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Street Songs: A Busker’s Tale review (Golden Goose Theatre)

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Theatre has seen me explore more and more of London in 2024, visiting off-West End and Fringe theatres across the city. Last night was no different, heading to Camberwell for the first time and the Golden Goose Theatre. I was invited to review Street Songs: A Busker’s Tale: a piece of new writing by Brett Snelgrove. Inspired by the grief the writer experienced after losing his father, Street Songs follows Jamie: a twenty-something musician who turns to busking when struggling to come to terms with the loss. His father was a street musician and at a crossroads in his own life, Jamie looks to music as an outlet for dealing with the hurt and anger from his father’s cancer diagnosis and sudden death. Produced by Square Jaw Productions and directed by acclaimed fringe director (and former busker) Lawrence Carmichael, the play features live music and raw monologues, portraying the strong emotions that go with grief.

Street Songs: A Busker's Tale at the Golden Goose Theatre, London

About the show

It is an intimate play that centres on guitarist Jamie (Ollie West) and a street drummer that he encounters called Charlie (Evie Joy Wright). Initially they don’t hit it off, arguing over street pitches, but over the course of the play, their interactions end up helping Charlie to pull back the curtain on his pent up grief. It is part live music show and part comedy drama, but one thing is for certain, you will never take a busker for granted again. There is time for audience interaction where you can donate fake money to the performers and this helps focus attention on the role of the busker which is too often overlooked. In places the music takes precedence over the storyline, particularly with reference to the transitions and overall flow of the narrative, but the interpretations of popular songs are extremely raw and highlight the profound impact that music can have on your soul.

Charlie (Evie Joy Wright) and Jamie (Ollie West) in Street Songs: A Busker’s Tale
© Larissa Pinkham Photography

Portrayal of grief

This particular portrayal of grief focuses on anger and Jamie takes it out on both his guitar and Charlie in an attempt to pour out his emotions. Whilst this is realistic in terms of the emotions displayed, I found that a high proportion of the play featured heightened emotions and conflict, which makes it hard for the viewer to see beyond the frustration. It would have been great to see more variety in the emotions and amplification, rather than the writing always focusing on Jamie’s distress and the creative clashes with Charlie. The softer moments where the main character talks directly to the audience about his internal struggle are the highlights of the play for me.

Live music

The music is spectacular, particularly in the moments where Jamie and Charlie experiment with musical combinations and work together to find their sound. The way that Charlie manages to build rhythms using overturned containers, really captures the magic of street performances and the pair’s combined vocals are very special. In places it is too intense though, with the characters almost overdoing it with the instruments. I understand that this goes hand in hand with the portrayal of grief and anger, but musically, the simpler and lighter renditions shine through.

Jamie (Ollie West) and Charlie (Evie Joy Wright) in Street Songs: A Busker’s Tale
© Larissa Pinkham Photography

Set and lighting design

Much like busking which centres on a person and their instruments, Lawrence and Amanda Carmichael’s set is simple, with street objects and containers for financial contributions scattered across the floor. Aaron Blackledge’s lighting adds to the overall mood of the set and show, lighting the performers and changing up the hues between each scene.

Sound design

Whilst on the whole the acoustic music and dialogue makes up the sound design, there is a sweet sequence where Jamie listens back to a recording of his Dad performing. The combination of the audio and Jamie’s light singing is a really heartfelt moment. Pre-recorded background noise is used again to illustrate an art gallery scene, but unlike the earlier use of sound effects, this feels unnecessary. A more stripped back approach would suffice, with the words and vocals taking centre stage at this point in the script.

Charlie (Evie Joy Wright) in Street Songs: A Busker’s Tale
© Larissa Pinkham Photography

An intimate play about grief packed with live music 

I thoroughly recommend that you check out Street Songs: A Busker’s Tale, with its dynamic live music and relatable messaging about grief. I would have liked to have seen a lighter touch to the emotions of the script, but that being said, anger is rarely expressed in the arts and the current state of the play normalises the emotion during periods of grief. Tickets for the remainder of the run can be purchased via the Golden Goose Theatre website.

Thanks for reading my blog today.

Love Kat xxxx

*My ticket for Street Songs: A Busker’s Tale was gifted in exchange for an unbiased review.



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