‘Be More Chill’ (Aberdeen Arts Centre) | Review By Rebecca Donati

Be more chill is an ironic name for this production as it has the complete opposite effect on their audience who were pumping with adrenaline after seeing the Scottish premier of this production! The high energy and highly captivating musical blew the audience away in all ways imaginable. Treading the Board (TTB) are Aberdeen’s only student-run musical company for students and non-students. The professional level of the talent, both on stage and of the creative time was so impressive. It was evident that a lot of time and effort was put into this refreshing performance.

Be More Chill invites the audience into the world of Jeremy Heere, your average; unpopular, anxiety ridden high school teenager. Along with his best friend Michael, they drag their way through school in the hope that life will get better in college. Jeremy learns of this “quantum nano technology CPU” supercomputer pill named Squip – from Japan. This pill will control what Jeremy says, how he acts and promises Jeremy a new life – the girl he’s always wanted, becoming cool and not just surviving but thriving in high school. He takes this pill and suddenly the world feels easy. The “upgrade” and remoulding of Jeremy comes at a price as his relationships around him begin to crumble and his new life with the Squip takes a dark turn. Is being more popular really worth the risk?

No description available.

Jeremy played by Ethan Lumsden played Jeremy brilliantly, his character development builds at just the right pace as he takes you through his emotional journey and keeps you with him the entire show. He maintains his energy throughout the show. Through some of the songs there were times where his voice seemed slightly stretched however it worked well for his character.

Michael played by Josh Milne stole the show with his portrayal of michael. His characterisation of Michael was brilliant making him as endearing as he could be. He seemed very comfortable in commanding and retaining the audiences attention. Milne has a brilliant tone to their voice, the audience eagerly awaiting his return to the stage making the audience want to see more.

The relationship between Jeremy and Michael was beautifully crafted. The actors had such a great chemistry on stage which stole the show. Their relationship seemed so natural and lended really brilliantly to carry the narrative of the story.

Emmah Chibesakunda gave such a wholesome, quirky feel to Christine. What makes Christine stand out is the use of her vocal intonation and emphasis to pull the audience’s attention to her. Christine exudates charm as the quirky, eccentric “weird” girl. Emmah Chibesakunda played her with such authenticity so much so that the audience was on her side every step of the way. She had a lovely tone to her voice when she sang which was very sweet and fitted the character well.

Connor McGarry played Jake much differently than I had expected which was refreshing. The “tough cool guy” was transformed into a slightly less hyper masculine version of the character. Conor McGarry was very comedic and charismatic, again a character the audience wanted more of.

Mikey Smith’s (Rich) vocal range was a stand out for the show. He played the role well and was freed of inhibition. He allowed the audience to laugh with him using his height to his advantage. He was confident in his role & the characterisation was fantastic.

The squip, this production uses a female in the role of the squip which could be argued adds more to the character. Roxi Luckhams portrayal of the squip was almost sinister from the beginning and she aesthetically she suited the role. She did well to command the stage and established a real sense of dominance from the moment she was on stage. At times Roxi seemed slightly inhibited which could draw away from the dominance, however, even with that she commanded the audience really well.

Brooke, Amanda Haggart was a stand out performer in this show. Her character journey was fantastic as the audience rooted for her. She was very comfortable on stage which allowed the audience to relax. Her singing voice was strong and powerful.

Chloe, Sara Bowie played the “mean girl” very well. The audience reacted sourly towards her conniving character as we have all known a Chloe in high school. She was confident in the role and played the character really well.

Jenna, Rebecca Morrice played Jenna really well. Her vocal ability was fantastic during “The Smartphone Hour” despite not having a huge role in the play Rebecca made sure to make the most of her moments and when she did it blew us away.

The relationship between these three girls was realistic and brought a familiar friendship triangle that you could find relatable no matter where you came from. They played their parts really well to balance the character and establish that hierarchy within the group.

No description available.

The ensemble brought a lot of energy to the stage. I was drawn to a different ensemble character each number. I was impressed with the consistency in energy and each member was well characterised. The ensemble played to their strengths the dancers shone through in choreographed numbers and the singers added beautiful harmonies that filled the room. The only thing that could make this ensemble stronger would be a more consistent feel of being present and switched on at all times as a couple of times your eye could be drawn to a slip in characterisation as some of the actors waited for the next number.

Director Hannah Cooks debut directing gig proves her to be one to watch in the Scottish scene. Her vision was clear and executed very well. The use of the led screen complimented the action on stage, it was brilliantly blended and added such a futuristic feel. The casting of this production was the most refreshing aspect of the show it was brilliant to such a diverse cast of different race, gender and size playing roles that unfortunately we do not see enough – we should all take note from this teams casting. We have to see this more, representation is so important! It was clear that Hannah wanted to put her own twist on this production of “Be More Chill”.

Choreographer Joel Simpson did a brilliant job. Many of the numbers had fresh, time appropriate choreography suited to the ability of the cast. The staging of one stand out number involving glow sticks blew the audiences mind leaving a visual mark that will stick with them for life. A fantastic choreographer who doesn’t rely on the recycled choreography which we have grown to expect from musical theatre productions.

Musical directors Liam Bowie and Mikey Innes have done a brilliant job. I enjoyed the use of the band in this production. The harmonies in this show were so impressive and blew you away. The guidance for the main cast especially Jeremy was so clear and concise to allow him to healthily use his voice throughout the show. The only slight thing I would say was that in the first song of the second act the band ever so slightly overpowered the cast which is very easily fixed.

No description available.

The lighting by Barry Sherriffs suited the play wonderfully. It was fun, bright, colourful and vibrant which suited the show to a tee. I also enjoyed the dramatic dark tones as the squip tries to dominate the minds of these teenagers. The flashes of light during the squip malfunctions had a scary feel which heightened the power of technology. The set design by Barry was relatively simple which worked well with the only elaborate thing being the sliding doors of the screen which was so clever. I liked the use of stairs as the “bleachers” being used again for Jeremy’s decision to “upgrade”. The cast moving the set added a slick modern feel which worked to allow a lack of blackouts which would have halted the energy of the show.

Stuart Prockter created the video wall animations which added a great amount to this production. The screens animations were used almost as a set which was thought out in great detail. The animations were really clever and visually stimulating without taking anything away from the actors.

This Scottish premier of ‘Be More Chill’ was a must-see. It had such a refreshing feel and left you leaving the theatre filled with adrenaline. The cast and creative team have done a brilliant job of putting on such a high standard of show. Keep an eye out for upcoming productions from TTB. Grab tickets for any future productions, you won’t regret it!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s