Mood Music

Previewed 21 April 2018, Opened 2 May 2018, Closed 30 June 2018 at the Old Vic Theatre

The World Premiere of Joe Penhall's new play Mood Music in London for a strictly limited two month season

In an expensive London recording studio, Cat, a young songwriter, her producer Bernard, their lawyers and psychotherapists go to battle over who owns a hit song. Amidst a gathering storm of bitter complaints and recriminations Cat and Bernard inflict a devastating toll on each other.

Please note: Recommended for ages 12 and above.

The cast features Ben Chaplin as 'Bernard' and Seana Kerslake as 'Cat' with Jemma Redgrave as 'Vanessa', Neil Stuke as 'Seymour', Pip Carter as 'Ramsay', and Kurt Egyiawan as 'Miles'. Directed by Roger Michell with sets by Hildegard Bechtler, costumes by Dinah Collin, lighting by Rick Fisher, music by David Arnold and sound by John Leonard.

PLEASE NOTE: Rhys Ifans was announced to be starring in this play, unfortunately he has had to withdrw from this production due to 'family reasons'. Rhys Ifans will therefore NOT be appearing in this play.

When this production opened here at the Old Vic Theatre in May 2018, Ann Treneman in the Times wrote that "this play by Joe Penhall about the dark side of the music biz is perfectly of the moment, exploring how power and control work when it all goes wrong... Ben Chaplin is brilliant as Bernard... Seana Kerslake is Cat, vulnerable but fierce and idealistic... Quite simply, this play rocks." Ian Shuttleworth in the Financial Times said that "Mood Music is electrifyingly smart: specific yet universal, contemporary and multi-dimensional, an indictment of male abuse of women yet enticing to boys of all ages, by dint of being set in the world of pop music... Ben Chaplin is magnificently loathsome as Bernard, Seana Kerslake naturally sympathetic as Cat... Comprehensively excellent." Henry Hitchings in the London Evening Standard thought that "while the play is strong on mood, there's no great sense of the music that defines the characters' lives. At its heart it needs more darkness and visceral conflict, though it's still worth seeing for Ben Chaplin's charismatic performance." Patrick Marmion in the Daily Mail highlighted that "the fun of this slick but shallow play lies in Ben Chaplin's devious character, who admits to being controlling - 'but only if I don't get my way'," adding that "director Roger Michell turns out a polished production... and the dialogue is snappy. But at the end, it felt like an album with one good track." Dominic Cavendish in the Daily Telegraph described it as being "an ingenious theatrical riff on the themes of creative control in the music industry and gender inequality... Roger Michell's slick production plays out as an arrangement of interwoven conversations." Neil Norman in the Daily Express stated how "Ben Chaplin dominates the play as the charming, arrogant closet psychopath Bernard." Paul Taylor in the i newspaper commented that "Joe Penhall's forceful play explores the vexed relationship between commercialism and creativity and the particular obstacles that this business throws in the path of women... Roger Michell's production has an incisive musical elegance." Michael Billington in the Guardian explained how "in this fascinating and highly topical new play, a conflict over ownership of a song escalates once the legal and psychiatric parasites enter the arena... Roger Michell has given it physical life by staging it with a beautiful fluidity that allows the arguments between the six characters to flow back and forth... but this is a fine play that raises a host of issues without ever trying to resolve them."

Ben Chaplin's London theatre credits include the role of 'Edward' in Roger Michell's production of Nina Raine's Consent at the National Theatre's Dorfman Theatre in 2017; and the role of 'Tom Wingfield' in Sam Mendes' revival of Tennessee Williams' play The Glass Menagerie at the Donmar Wearehouse in 1995.

Jemma Redgrave's London West End credits include the role of 'Emily Webb' in Robert Allan Ackerman's revival of Thornton Wilder's 1938 play Our Town at the Shaftesbury Theatre in 1991.

Neil Stuke's West End stage credits include the role of 'Robert' in Matthew Warchus's revival of Marc Camoletti's comedyBoeing-Boeing at the Harold Pinter Theatre in 2007; and the role of 'Bruce' in Roger Michell's production of Joe Penhall's play Blue/Orange at the Duchess Theatre in 2001.

Joe Penhall's West End credits include the Kinks musical Sunny Afternoon at the Harold Pinter Theatre in 2014 and the play Blue/Orange at the Duchess Theatre in 2001. Roger Michell's London theatre credits include Joanna Murray-Smith's play The Female Of The Species at the Vaudeville Theatre in 2008 and Joe Penhall's play Blue/Orange at the Duchess Theatre in 2001.

"In 2015 playwright Joe Penhall won an Olivier award for Sunny Afternoon, a musical based on the early life of the Kinks frontman Sir Ray Davies. But his initially happy relationship with Davies turned into a "cancerous feud" when the singer demanded a writing credit... Penhall has now exorcised the painful experience of collaboration in Mood Music. The warring partners here are a successful record producer and a young singer/songwriter but the problems of collaboration remain. Rampantly egotistical Bernard, who is prone to statements such as "I am the music", tries to steal the credit for Cat's work. Interestingly structured, with overlapping scenes that point to both the connections and contrasts between Bernard and Cat... By making the exploited songwriter a woman, Penhall taps into the current debate about sexual abuse in the entertainment industry. Roger Michell directs fluidly, and the central roles are expertly taken by Ben Chaplin and Seana Kerslake. Chaplin, in particular, gives a brilliant portrayal of louche narcissism. The play is, however, deeply flawed. The four subsidiary characters, their lawyers and therapists, are ciphers. Therapists, like interviewers, are a lame dramatic device and it is never quite clear how Bernard delivers his coup de grace to Cat." The Sunday Express

"It takes a while before you realise that likeable pop producer Bernard - played by charismatic Apple Tree Yard star Ben Chaplin - is the villain in Joe Penhall's gripping new play. He has the best lines, such as: 'The thing you have to realise about bass players is that they are not musical.' But when you do realise, you might want to brain him with his bronze music award, half of which is a young singer-songwriter's, but all of which he grasps with both hands. How can two people claim credit for one song?... Chaplin superbly conveys the exploitative ego of powerful men and is spot on with the good-blokeishness that builds trust, and the selfishness that breaks it. Seana Kerslake is also fine as Bernard's once guileless, now angry prodigy, though hers is a less interesting role. There is also good work by Silk star Neil Stuke and Jemma Redgrave as advisers. But it is Chaplin who reveals something of the male, amoral exploiters of this world, and the almost psychopathic emotional detachment with which they hurt people." The Metro

"Mood Music takes place entirely in a recording studio and portrays the battle of wills between a reptilian old male rock star with a great career behind him and a talented, up-and-coming young female singer full of idealism and energy... The good things first: Ben Chaplin is terrifically watchable as the ghastly but charismatic Bernard... And the Irish newcomer Seana Kerslake, on a West End stage for the first time, is wonderful and touching as Cat, radiating the shiny optimism of youth that is doomed to become tarnished soon enough in the cynical and mercenary world of the music business. Thereafter, though, there's nothing really to recommend what becomes a terribly verbose, static and undramatic little piece. The characters undergo no development, there are no twists and turns or shocking revelations... Alongside the two main characters, there is only one other of interest: Bernard's lawyer, Seymour (Neil Stuke), an unspeakably rebarbative figure even by the standards of most... The other characters are woefully underwritten, the actors almost entirely wasted... The whole purpose of the long, spiralling, self-absorbed debate that is Mood Music seems to be to prove a thesis we know is true already: that the music biz is a tough place for women, especially young girls; that it's riddled with Triassic-era sexism; and that Penhall thinks this is all a really bad thing." The Sunday Times

Mood Music in London at the Old Vic Theatre previewed from 21 April 2018, opened on 2 May 2018, and closed on 30 June 2018