Theatre review: When Midnight Strikes at Upstairs at the Gatehouse, Highgate

Socialite Jennifer's life comes crashing down in When Midnight Strikes (Picture: JR Company)

Socialite Jennifer's life comes crashing down in When Midnight Strikes (Picture: JR Company) - Credit: Archant

The turn of the Millennium was one of those seismic moments in history, just like New Year’s Eve continues to be a heightened moment within our own lives.

When Midnight Strikes deftly and comically brings the two together in JR Theatre Company’s slick and stylish musical whodunnit.

The night is December 31 1999 in a New York apartment where socialites Jennifer and Christopher are hosting the party of the century - but she has just discovered his infidelity with a handwritten love note.

Everything begins to unravel as the guests arrive as it emerges that the note writer is also at the party.

With so many of them on a small stage it is credit to the strong cast that the audience can identify with them – Jennifer’s Party Face is a flawless mask on what’s clearly agonising pain beneath it while David Scotland provides much comedy as the neurotic and socially awkward nerd Edward.

Katherine Victoria brings pure British cheeky charm to her role as failed actress Josephina who must work the night serving them all.

The group includes a womanising brother, a brassy sister, a gay friend, a new age hippy, a bitchy broad, a repressed neighbour, an uninvited barman all of whom have something to say.

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The pace and energy of the Kevin Hammond’s script is seamless and brilliantly handled as the tension mounts. Guests are frozen in motion throughout a game of charades while other characters play out the underlying story – and the audience is left wondering who the betrayer is.

The musical score has dramatic overtures by the two musicians on cello and piano introducing the second act which is followed by a capella by the group.

The songs keep a pace of the action; some are pure energy, some are comic and there are power ballads to stir the heart strings.

There are nods to the past throughout - the Y2K bug threatened to glitch all computers at the stroke of millennial midnight and from the couple’s balcony there’s a view of the World Trade Centre which was attacked in 2001.

It’s a poignant reminder of how the world continues to change while the power and the frailties of human emotions are the same today as they ever were.

A timeless gem of a musical.

When Midnight Strikes, part of the Camden Fringe Festival has finished its run at Upstairs at the Gatehouse in Highgate.