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Preview: Yesterday

Yesterday is an innovative piece of new writing by Stephen Hyde and Katie Hale. As new writing goes this is a pretty bewildering case. Written as a musical, it is a story told by three female characters linked by their relationship to one man. It is a bewildering because the writers have taken a particularly different approach to telling the story. Not only is the telling of the narrative fragmented by the multiple narrators, but the chronology of the story they tell is itself fragmented. For what we hear are not simply three different but sequentially coherent voices, but three perspectives on the story telling different moments of the story.

It is a particularly intriguing form of storytelling, not least because it is set to music. Not content only to introduce variation in time and perspective, the writers have also segmented the story with differing musical styles. Each perspective on the story is characterized by its own musical style and motifs. In the scenes I saw the more conventional Sondheim esque musical form was well and present: soaring choruses , group harmonies and the like. But intriguingly there was also a big band style jazz piece, which made for a refreshing change.

From my preview it was not yet clear how this fragmentation of time, perspective and music was going to interconnect. If however on the night it does, then this could be a truly stupendous achievement. The intricacy both aesthetically and conceptually of such a piece would make it one of the most stunning bits of new writing this year. Nonetheless I’m still not sure whether the script has the potential to do this, let alone whether it actually will.

The overarching story the audience will have to piece together is told by the wife mother and mistress of a man we never see. The story concerns his life told through his interactions with these significant women in his life. I’m still not too clear what is special about this particular man or what it is abut his life that makes it dramatically interesting. But I’m sure on the night we will be rewarded if we stick with clues we are given. If these narrative clues coalesce in order for a conceptual and aesthetic coherence to emerge, then this ambitious fragmentation could indeed be the achievement that it elusively promises.

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