Del Segno – Theatre at the Tabard review

Image above: Del Segno, Theatre at the Tabard

Del Segno, Theatre at the Tabard

Review by Simon Thomsett

Joseph Morley is a professional pianist turned Musical Director with many years on the clock in the music business.  He has turned some of that experience into a new play, Dal Segno, a glimpse behind the scenes in the life of a live band, currently showing at the Theatre at the Tabard.

Unsurprisingly, given the author’s background, there is a strong sense of authenticity here, particularly in the carefully drawn and subtly played older characters such as Vincent Shiels’ Brian, and Terence Frisch’s Ron, both of whom inhabit the seedy band room setting as if they had been hanging around rooms such as this for ever.

Image above: Max Kinder (Alex), Vincent Shiels (Brian) and Terence Frisch (Ron) in Del Segno, Theatre at the Tabard

The setting is 1979, backstage at a club, poetically referenced as an “amazing old venue” then, more realistically “a shed full of old flies” where old posters point to past glories and the dial predictably falls off the broken television in the corner.

Of the seven band members, the younger ones still hold on to a sense of purpose, of providing spiritual succour through their music. Max Kinder as Alex in particular (“Head barman who doubles on guitar”) is still misty eyed about the transformative potential of his art and Theo Watt’s bubbly young brass player is full of youthful joy at just being able to pursue his chosen career.

Image above: Theo Watt (Chris) and Terence Frisch in Del Segno, Theatre at the Tabard

The others who have been around a while are less sentimental: Frank Simms as Derek has discovered love and also another way of life in rural Devon far away from the grubby halls and uncertainty of his musician life.

Kevin Wathen’s Mike is a 70’s throwback, loud and sexist and prone to flashes of temper suggesting something going on underneath his bravado. Best of all, Adam Sopp as Adrian has a slow burning role, sitting in a corner and grumbling for much of the first half, his weary cynicism a cover for inner pain.

Image above: Kevin Wathen (Mike) and Vincent Shiels in Del Segno, Theatre at the Tabard

The cast is completed by Clair Greaves as a series of women, mostly hangers-on and wide-eyed admirers, often not much more than background presence in this male dominated world; she has confidence and presence but not much to do.

Director Julia Faulkner makes maximum use of the Tabard stage, using the full width on occasion to emphasise the distance between these apparent brothers in arms but then bringing them together in uneasy and even violent conflict in sudden shifts of tone which are startling.

Image above: Adam Sopp (Adrian), Vincent Shiels and Terence Frisch in Del Segno, Theatre at the Tabard

Although the narrative tends to drift here and there, for the most part the play is an absorbing and pleasurable insight into a world where the joy of playing music professionally can somehow be elusive, where regular deputising when a more lucrative job comes along is accepted practice and where a call for a much-needed rehearsal causes outrage.

“Some people would say we were privileged” says one character.  Indeed they would.  Dal Segno plays until Saturday 8 July and is well worth a visit.

Photographs by Charles Flint.

Simon Thomsett

Simon Thomsett has worked in the professional theatre for a number of years. He started out as a stage manager and technician then became a venue director and producer, notably at the Hackney Empire, Fairfield Halls and most recently the New Victoria Theatre in Woking.

Since leaving full time work last year, he is now working as a consultant and on some small scale producing projects. He is a Chiswick resident and a passionate advocate for great theatre.