Award-winning musical Rent opening in Peterborough

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Jonathan Larson’s multi award-winning rock musical Rent has been revived and is being brought to Peterborough New Theatre for a 12-show run starting on Thursday.

This interpretation of Rent, which follows a group of young artists living in Manhattan’s East Village as they navigate love, loss, and the devastating impact of HIV/AIDS, is the debut production of Landmark Theatres – the organisation which operates the city’s New and Key theatres.

Directed by Landmark’s Paul Jepson, the powerful and inspiring storytelling beautifully captures the ultimate sacrifice of a life of stability for the sake of art, reminding us of the importance of following our passions and taking risks to pursue our dreams.

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Something not lost on Paul, who describes the move into becoming a producing house as “”a big thing and transformational for the organisation” and potentially for the city too in creating opportunities for creatives.

The cast of Rent in rehearsal in Peterborough ahead of the opening on June 20The cast of Rent in rehearsal in Peterborough ahead of the opening on June 20
The cast of Rent in rehearsal in Peterborough ahead of the opening on June 20

“All good pieces of work come in and out of focus, Rent is no exception," says Paul of the Tony Awards, Drama Desk Awards and the Pulitzer Prize Award winner, that ran on Broadway for 12 years and spawned smash-hits including ‘Seasons of Love’ and ‘Take Me or Leave Me’.

“At its centre it has got two or three very important things going for it,” he adds.

“He (Larson) writes real people and I sense that some elements of those characters don't always come across because it (Rent) has become almost like a series of rock pop anthems and the characters are rather more complicated than that.

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"It has faults and there are things in the second half of the show that feel incomplete, which allows room for clarification and purpose.

The cast of Rent in rehearsal in Peterborough ahead of the opening on June 20The cast of Rent in rehearsal in Peterborough ahead of the opening on June 20
The cast of Rent in rehearsal in Peterborough ahead of the opening on June 20

“It allows you to do the songs in a very different way, for instance. The staging of some of the numbers has never been done in the way we are doing them.

"It is also incredibly funny and moving. The character of Mimi is fascinating and I was determined to get that right. She is supersexy and all that, but just a girl with a bad drug habit who is reckless and vulnerable and invasive and troubled. I think that if get her right it becomes disturbing in a good way.”

Despite its 1990s origins, it is also a piece recognisable in the world we live in today.

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“I remember Rent from the West End and it was very much a protest song with flat texture dramatically. It was very loud and in your face; looking at it now it is a very different piece of work,” says the director.

The cast of Rent in rehearsal in Peterborough ahead of the opening on June 20The cast of Rent in rehearsal in Peterborough ahead of the opening on June 20
The cast of Rent in rehearsal in Peterborough ahead of the opening on June 20

"And the underlying themes have come into focus – gender as distinct from sex, and being who you are in a world that allows you to be who you are or you tell the world it should change. These are very strong themes and it is now a piece of work that is extraordinarily prescient.

“We also have a young and talented cast who are very moved and engaged by it, they feel very strongly about it and they are from a totally different generation.”

Rent runs from June 20 to June 29, before visiting Landmark’s Queen’s Theatre Barnstaple from July 3.

Tickets for the Peterborough shows are available online at www.newtheatre-peterborough

This production contains strong language and mature themes. Age recommendation 14+.

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