REVIEW: No Limits (The Turbine Theatre)

A brand new song cycle has just had its world premiere at The Turbine Theatre. Set in the same London apartment at different points in time, Sam Thomas’ No Limits spotlights the apartment’s revolving door of residents as they each reach crossroads in their individual lives. Over the course of the evening they open their hearts, share their dreams and consider where to go next, all against the backdrop of social media giving the impression that everyone else has a perfect life. We were invited to the press performance on Friday night to see this exciting new musical.

With its song-cycle format, and themes of feeling stuck in a moment, the production inevitably invites comparisons with Songs for a New World, although it’s clearly aimed at a younger demographic (all the characters have a hashtag rather than a name) and has a rather narrower gaze. In particular, it’s quite heavily focused on romantic relationships, with a lot of emphasis on dating apps and break-ups. Although there is an attempt at mixing things up with references to familial and platonic relationships, it does start to feel a little samey in places.

Photo credit: Danny Kaan

While the songs are enjoyable and the performances excellent, I personally struggled to connect with No Limits in the same way that many others in the audience appeared to. Admittedly, it may not be aimed at married lesbians in their mid-30s who have been together since secondary school, but it would have been nice to see some more interaction between female characters that didn’t centre around their relationships with men. While this is trickier in the context of a song-cycle, it doesn’t feel like it quite passes the Bechdel test.

That being said, one of the stand-out moments is “Another Thing Coming”, a duet between #Dreamer (Natalie May Paris) and #Funemployed (Mary Moore) featuring a wife and girlfriend conspiring to get revenge on a cheating husband. Another highlight is #Catfish’s (Hannah Lowther) hilarious rendition of “Confessions of a Catfish”. The group number, “Kinky” makes for an especially crowd-pleasing Act 2 opener while the title number (also delivered by powerhouse, Natalie May Paris) also went down a storm on Friday night.

Dean Johnson’s direction gets good mileage out of Sam Thomas’ material, particularly the comedy numbers, and makes effective use of Justin Williams’ flexible set, although a large screen featuring accompanying imagery (such as social media posts) could be better integrated into the action. It stands to one side of the stage and there’s a lot of interesting stuff going on there, but you do need to make a conscious effort to look at it.

I wanted to love this one but was left feeling a little flat, although it’s probably worth noting that I had a relatively muted reaction to Songs for a New World the first time I saw it. Without the strong narrative of a more traditional musical, song-cycles can be more of a slow-burner and it would be interesting to see whether this one grows on me in future or if my reaction remains limited.

No Limits plays at the Turbine Theatre from 13 to 26 February 2023. We received a complimentary press ticket to the performance on Friday 17 February.