Review: All aboard

24 March 2016

by Tom Bulpett

I adored this show...perhaps I should elaborate on that opinion to hit my word limit, but I honestly don’t feel I will be able to express how much I loved this musical in a few hundred words, so I might as well be brief.

Departures, written and composed by Joe Bunce and Matthew Malone, tells the story of nine strangers, stuck on a sparse station one weekday afternoon waiting for an increasingly delayed train. There is no plot as such, instead a series of musical numbers in which each character discloses a personal secret, recent revelation or internal frustration to their fellow stranded travellers.

Each song is beautifully crafted and deals with a fascinating range of subject matters, from immigration to loneliness and Tinder. Some of these are heartbreaking, some heartwarming and others are damn hilarious. Each builds upon the last, with characters who have previously sung supporting the following melodies, leading to the glorious crescendo of the finale. The incredible complexity of the melody and structure of each song is astonishing and it is easily one of the finest student written musicals I have ever seen.

The performances from the cast are equally impressive; as previously stated, the song structures are far from simple yet everyone steps up to the challenge and delivers stunning solo after solo. There are no stage hogs or weak links, every cast member works for the ensemble and helps to create a seamless production with no lulls in energy or quality.

I genuinely struggled to think of anything I disliked about this production, only after an hour or so of contemplation did I concede that the ending is a little on the nose when it comes to show’s social commentary, since the audience is bashed over the head with a summary monologue telling us what all the characters have learned throughout the show. Except for this one flaw I honestly cannot think of anything I would have changed about Departures.

It is a fabulous production, my favourite show of the festival so far and I implore you all to try and see it at some point, even if you missed it at NSDF this year.       

Photo credit: Aenna Pallasca