A Strange Loop at the Barbican review: An Unflinchingly Honest Journey of Self-Discovery

Monday 17 July 2023

a deeply relevant and relatable experience for audiences of all backgrounds."

A Strange Loop
Barbican Centre

A Strange Loop at Barbican is an absolutely remarkable production that pushes the boundaries of theatre and delves deep into the complexities of identity, self-worth, and the human experience. From the moment the curtains opened, I was captivated by the raw and unapologetic exploration of the protagonist, Usher’s psyche.

This is a show which is really reliant on a united and strong cast and thankfully the performances throughout are super strong. The entire cast deliver powerful, emotionally charged portrayals. Due to the nature of the show, it may not directly resonate with the audience but the cast do an astounding job of making you feel for Usher’s story and really connect on a profound level. Each actor skilfully brings their character to life, blending humour, vulnerability, and intense introspection in perfect harmony. The energy on stage is infectious, and you really find yourself absorbed in the story.

The writing by Michael R. Jackson is truly effective. With a script that flawlessly combines witty dialogue, thought-provoking monologues, and catchy musical numbers to create a narrative which effectively mirrors the issues broached throughout. A Strange Loop tackles themes of race, sexuality, self-doubt, and societal expectations with unflinching honesty, making it a deeply relevant and relatable experience for audiences of all backgrounds.

The staging and set design (Arnulfo Maldonado) are brilliantly executed, utilising minimalistic elements to create a visually striking and versatile backdrop for the story. There are times when the stage feels underused but toward the end of the musical, it’s really stretched to its limits and is so impactful. The imaginative use of lighting (Jen Schriever) adds another layer of depth to the production, enhancing the emotional impact of each scene.

Furthermore, the direction by Stephen Brackett brings out the best in the cast and the material. The pacing ensures that every moment lands with the intended impact, at times causing a collective gasp from the audience. Brackett's vision seamlessly integrates the music, choreography, and storytelling, resulting in a cohesive and thought-provoking theatrical experience.

While A Strange Loop may not resonate with everyone, it has the power to profoundly impact those who are open to engaging with challenging themes. This production serves as a powerful testament to the transformative nature of theatre, as it encourages introspection, sparks meaningful conversations, and fosters empathy among its viewers.

If I were to have any reservation in giving it a perfect five-star rating, it would be that the complexity of the narrative and the rapid pace of the production might make it slightly difficult for some audience members to fully grasp the subtleties of the story. However, I firmly believe that this should not dissuade anyone from experiencing this groundbreaking piece of theatre during its limited run.

A Strange Loop at Barbican is an audacious and unforgettable production that dares to push the boundaries of what theatre can achieve. In just an hour and forty minutes, it fearlessly challenges societal norms, delves deep into internal struggles, and ultimately celebrates the triumphant journey of self-discovery. Prepare to be moved, thoroughly entertained, and enlightened as you embark on this hypnotic exploration of the human psyche.

Reviewed on Thursday 13th July 2023 by Olivia Mitchell
Photo Credit: Marc Brenner

{AD PR Invite- tickets gifted in exchange for honest review}