Nathaniel Jones’ evocative midsummer monologue, Sing, River, interrogates the forgotten objects that lie on the river bed of the Thames and the secrets that they have in sore.
Part performance of folk law-inspired music, part inquiry into queer identity, Sing, River tries to do many things at once.
Jones welcomes us on this midsummer evening, singing a song that covers Pagan stories of river-dwelling creatures and legends of the Green Man.
The music, composed by Faye Jones, is rich with imagery. Nathaniel Jones’ voice carries the complex rhythm. It is a shame that Jones is amplified with a microphone for so much of the music, as their natural tone in the small Hope Theatre is far more intimate when it is entirely acoustic.
Katie Kirkpatrick’s direction is understated and effective. The design maps out the debris one imagines at the bottom of the Thames, with strings of pearls, mirrors, bicycle parts and old bottles. From lost rings to golden crowns and stone busts, Jones wades through what they find and imagines the forgotten stories behind each object.
In the wasteland of forgotten memories, there is a fear around objects’ history, indeed there is a guilt around British history itself, and a nervousness from Jones’ character that is not fully realised.
The play loses its intensity when Jones’ character drifts into their narrative of dating and uni. Personal revelations muddy the water and interrupt the concept. Until we hear references to Ed Sheeran and Shrek, this piece exists outside the time/space continuum and is better for it.
At one stage, Jones’ character says they ‘don’t want this to turn into another show about a twink monologing about his love life’, yet that is exactly what the play does turn into. Despite ancient myths rearing their head in the music, the show struggles to decide what it is trying to do.
It’s only in the last ten minutes of the play that we learn the reason behind Jones’ characters’ neurosis. I wonder if the river will swallow the protagonist entirely, but that would be too much narrative for Sing, River, and the character simply drifts off.
Conceptually, Sing, River is a neat idea but it tries to do too much, including too many ideas and leaving us wanting more of some and less of others.