Review - Muted (The Bunker Theatre)

Muted is the third show in The Bunker Theatre's inaugural season. The venue, converted from a disused carpark into an intimate 110 seat theatre, is effortlessly atmospheric, and the perfect home for Muted, an edgy yet surprisingly subdued new musical. 

Directed by Jamie Jackson, Muted tells the story of Michael, an exceptional young musician whose band was on the brink of stardom, until his mother was suddenly killed in a hit and run accident, after which he stopped talking altogether. Muted features a book by Sarah Henley and music and lyrics by Tim Prottey-Jones and Tori Allen-Martin, with the latter also co starring.

Tori Allen-Martin and David Leopold in Muted
Photo credit - Savannah Photography
Despite a slightly slow start, Muted is not short on surprising twists and heartstopping, lump-in-throat moments, as well as some genuinely uncomfortable scenes which tease at darker themes. However, paramount to the success of Muted is the strength of the cast. David Leopold gives an incredibly moving performance as Michael, delivering intensity and vulnerability without uttering a single word. Equally affecting is Tori Allen-Martin as down to earth Lauren, who feels so real and relatable that she's impossible not to love. Meanwhile Jos Slovick has some menacing moments as Jake, Michael's old bandmate and Lauren's boyfriend. The cast is completed by Mark Hawkins as Michael's flippant uncle Will, who was left to care for Michael after his mother's death, and in flashback form Helen Hobson gives a frighteningly raw performance as Michael's mother, while Edd Campbell Bird is charmingly winsome as young Michael.

As is to be expected from a musical about music itself, the pop and rock inspired songs of Muted are moving at times, featuring some haunting lyrics and gorgeous harmonies. The cast tackle each song with ease, and are accompanied by a wonderful little band, whose skillful and enthusiastic playing further emphasises the extent to which music is an integral part of the story. 

Another of Muted's more striking elements is Sarah Beaton's production design. A moat of water surrounds Michael's bedroom , which is represented by a small platform in the middle. Suspended from the ceiling behind it is a wooden swing. The use of water and the island-like platform in the middle are both interesting elements which are clearly symbolic of the isolation Michael feels, meanwhile the swing is used as a representation of Michael's youth and his relationship with his mother. The use of these set pieces is perhaps a little overzealous at times, but the splashing of water and soaring of swings create some undeniably striking images throughout the show.

Despite a sometimes meandering plot, Muted is a promising new musical. Impeccably cast and meticulously directed, it delivers a punchy and satisfying finale which will leave audiences breathless. 

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