Bath Voice News – Theatre Review: Maple Theatre’s glorious production of Rent at the Rondo is a must-see show

By Ian Diddams . Review of Rent by Jonathan Larson, at The Rondo Theatre, Bath. The show runs from March 13-16, 2024. Presented by Maple Theatre Company.

It’s always hard reviewing a show that one has seen multiple times before, performed by differing companies. It’s also hard reviewing a show that is one of one’s favourite shows EVAH. And if that wasn’t hard enough…  Its far too hard to review a show that one has performed in oneself. It’s wrong to compare – its unfair and meaningless…  differing companies, differing directors, differing theatres.  So, ignoring the seven other productions I’ve seen including the one I bummed around in (quite literally – if you know you know) ….  Here goes…..

For those that know the story of “RENT” – you can skip this paragraph. Otherwise, Jonathan Larson’s story – a glorious homage to Puccini’s “La Boheme” – revolves around a group of bohemians in the lower east side of New York City and deals with topics such as homelessness, drug addiction, betrayal, and AIDS… as well as love, friendship, recovery, and hope. All wrapped up with a stunning score of often poignant, sometimes funny, always beautiful singing with six-part harmonies. If you want to know more …  duck go go is your friend as ever.

RENT on stage is usually set in a quasi-industrial area – and Maple Theatre Company don’t buck that trend (I doubt RENT heads would allow it to be honest!). Scaffolding creates multiple levels which are used excellently throughout the show and frames several areas for the action. ON stage props and setting is minimal, but I raise my hat to the wonderful use of moveable music flight cases with wooden tops that represent beds, side tables and THE cafe table (if you know, you know). Quite brilliant also was the use of 40-gallon steel oil drums …  where “drums” covers two definitions of that word.  Chapeau to Luke Hocket, set designer (who also produced the show) and his set team of Tom Courtier and Milly Hayward.

Directing a show like “RENT” is no easy task (not as hard as reviewing it obviously ) as the show is basically “the same” whoever does it (as it is so iconic – maybe after 400 years, like Shakespeare, some aspects will be changed, and we will get a RENT set on a spaceship …)  but Dionna Kate-Hargreaves set her own stamp on it in subtly brilliant ways. I mentioned the use of multiple levels already but the piece de resistance of the show is in many ways …  the drumming.  (If you know you know).

And speaking of drumming that brings us to the music – a six-piece band led by MD Kris Nock rocked out the show hidden subtly off stage but in full view (once you know, you know). I wonder if Kris’ toughest task (not as arduous as reviewing obviously) was teaching three actors to hit a large piece of metal in time with two sticks for some considerable time (if you know, you know).

Tech is as ever hidden away where no one can see them up in the attic of the Rondo, and technical director Tom Courtier and his crew slid their sliders and pushed their buttons and  lit their lights to full effect. (I’ve got a deep and meaningful understanding of tech). Rule number one in a theatre is never hack off the tech guys – they have hammers, and saws, and unlimited access to 240v at all times (if you know, you know) so – GREAT WORK GUYS!!!

That’s about it then. Set, Tech, props, direction, music.  Yup. That’ll do.


Yes.  That lot that cavorts upon the stage.  Nearly forgot them. Starting with cavorting…  choreographer and dance captain Grace Egginton and Grace Shobbrook whipped the cast into a frenzy of whirling limbs when they weren’t singing.  And often when they were come to that. It must be said the Rondo’s stage is quite….  Bijou… particularly when by necessity a good half of it is taken up by aluminium scaffolding poles that don’t bend if you collide with them (if you know, you know) so the tightness of choreography is impressive.

Detail from the original 1993 poster

And so – the cast. I’ve used the line about “strutting and fretting his hour upon the stage” before so I won’t use it again.  Ooops.

It takes a dedicated cast to work “RENT” – it is emotionally draining (if you know, you know), taking its toll on the actors’ own emotions. And this cast did Jonathan Larson proud. The ensemble – they always get listed last so here they are first cos that’s important (if you know, you know) so bravo Daisy Wilson, Morgan Hames, Georgi pepper, Steven Hockett, Jasmine Lye, Sophie smith, Milly Haywood, and Sarah Easterbrook…  All of whom also starred in the all-important cameo parts that just make “RENT” simply “work”. Special mention must be made though for Jasmine, who stepped up to play the role of the harassed waiter in the café scene due to cast unavailability this evening.  Cometh the hour, cometh the Jas!

I suppose that leaves the principals. *sigh*.  OK. Well…  ummm…  errr…

Well in all honesty they weren’t good. Nope. Not at all.


and other superlatives.

In no particular order…  Bryan Houce played Mark…  his portrayal got stronger and stronger throughout the performance as the middle-class wannabe with no confidence (that’s Mark – not Bryan!). Mimi was played superbly by Grace Egginton who quite rightly as a choreographer played the part of a striptease dancer very well.  (Hmmm…  that maybe came out a bit wrong?) Roger Davis, all angst, and anger was quite phenomenal played by Josh Phillips.  Absolutely fantastic. Liberty Williams probably stole the show for “most likely to break a wine glass at forty feet” with her incredible top note harmonising as Joanne, and Naomi Marie as Benny (déjà vu here – if you know, you know) as the brooding, mean turncoat-comes-good ex-flatmate.

If I appear to be rushing through these principals, it’s because I could write war and peace about them otherwise. Next up – in her first ever principal role (which is hard to believe, if not as hard as reviewing of course) playing Maureen was Sarah Askew.  Now Sarah is no mean belter of a top noted harmony as well, as befits a rock band vocalist (if you know, you know) but …  well.  If you need a top MOO-ERR then Sarah is your girl (if you know, you know).  And then we have Davey Evans as Collins. Another wow moment.  Collins is a complex character to play especially with the range of emotions demanded of it, and Davey perfected them all. Great voice too. Which leaves last, but of course NEVER least…  Angel. George Friend. I had the pleasure of speaking with George before and after the show – he is reprising the role he played in 2017 – and he claimed (yeah right ) he couldn’t believe he could still reach the high notes he needed but they were well reached, another great performance.

So that’s it. I’ve reviewed a show that’s hard to review. A show that for an opening night was quite wonderful. And let us not forget either the debut show for a brand-new Bath based community theatre company.  Top job.

“RENT” runs until Saturday 16th March at 1930 each evening with a 1430 matinee on the 16th. Tickets can be bought from

…and I urge you to go.

And – don’t forget to MOOOO!  (if you know, you know).

You always said how lucky you were that we were all friends. But it was us, baby, who were the lucky ones.

Ian Diddams

Note: Rent is a rock musical written by the lyricist, novelist and composer Jonathan David Larson of New York and was first staged in workshop mode in 1993 before its premier in 1996 in Off Broadway.

For more on the Maple Theatre Company visit

For more on the Rondo Theatre visit

This review was originally published at Editor: Darren Worrow