It all starts off chirpy enough in Andy McGregor’s musical, A New Life. Career-driven Jess and Robbie’s only worries are where their next exotic destination is going to be or whether they should get a new SMEG fridge. She’s on track to be the headteacher of her primary school, his latest computer game is about to be picked up by Nintendo. As we all know, the most predictable thing about life is its unpredictability, and a great big baby-shaped spanner is thrown in the works with a very unplanned pregnancy.
McGregor tackles some tough subject matter here: post-partum depression; the grim reality of what motherhood can make you; suicide. He dares to say the unsayable, but is it best delivered through the medium of musical theatre? McGregor can really write a tune and there are some real crackers here. However, the tunes (and their sublime delivery by Kim Shepherd) are not enough to carry this new work – not yet anyway.
The relationship between Jess and Robbie (Kim Shepherd and Simon Donaldson) is presented as a given, but there’s no time to establish their real bond, or for you to get on-side and root for them. The work is only around 80 minutes long and you’d be forgiven for rushing to the heart of the matter, but the descent into darkness is steep and prolonged, taking up much of the running time. The only (and much needed) light relief comes in the form of six-foot, nappy wearing, tap dancing, back-talking baby Barry (Stephen Arden) who steals the show with his outrageous antics.
Hats off to McGregor for even trying to tackle the subject matter and he delivers a dose of harsh reality in a largely palatable way. However, the balance between the light relief and the hard-hitting realities is a little off kilter. Never one to ask for a work’s running time to be extended, A New Life has huge potential and with a bit of work could strike the right balance and take its place at the vanguard of new musical theatre writing.
Reviewed on 29 October 2022 at the Tron Theatre and continues to tour Scotland with Crocodile Rock | Image: Tim Morozzo