2 November 2023
Belongings: A heartfelt celebration of connection
Ivan Radford reviews the musical Belongings – now on tour!
‘I belong in Christ,’ sings someone halfway through Belongings. The fact that they are singing it in the middle of a Salvation Army charity shop makes the moment all the more unlikely – and all the more moving.
The musical, by Stephanie Lamplough and Paul Sharman (both Music and Creative Arts), sees 13 people trapped in said shop because of a storm. As their time together unfolds, we find out more about them and, crucially, they find out about each other: it’s a show rooted in listening to and valuing other people.
The cast includes the optimistic and bubbly Celeste (Grace Moir) and Maisie (Josie Lamplough), the faithful Grace (Tanya Limted) the considerate Paul (Philip James) and caring Lisa (Captain Alison Chapman), the resilient Susie (Bethany Henderson) and comic relief Kevin (Reuben Dykes), the thoughtful Mia (Mia Laird), troubled Connor (Erlend Smith), shy Liam (Nathaniel Leighton) and fragile Val (Stephanie Bonser-Ward). Holding them all together is the boisterous Captain Sandra (Alicia Begley), who serves as our narrator and gives us an insight into their situations.
From the off, it’s intentionally an ensemble piece, with the catchy earworm ‘S.A. Charity Shop’ giving the characters a couple of lines to introduce themselves. The rousing ‘Dare to Care’ captures the mission of every expression of the Army to ‘see a world that’s good, a world that’s fair’.
As we spend time with these people on their own, the musical really finds its groove. Lamplough and Sharman deftly hop between genres to fit each character’s personality, from the jazzy swagger of ‘Flying High!’ (delivered with charisma by Dykes) to the sashaying Sherman Brothers-esque ‘Look for the Blue in the Sky’. ‘Can I Have This Dance?’ is perhaps the boldest item, as it introduces God (Charlie Green) and imagines his call to follow him as a dance invitation – and grounds that metaphor in the moving shame of Mia, who is too busy running scared to see herself through God’s eyes.
The importance of seeing, and treating, everyone as God’s loved creations is echoed in the most heart-breaking number, ‘I Remember You’, as Val – who is living with dementia – recalls past summers with trembling, vivid lucidity. Bonser-Ward’s performance will resonate with anyone who has encountered dementia, reminding us to look past the condition and see the person.
In these moments, Begley’s heartfelt narration fades into the background and lets each character take the spotlight. That means that when the passionate cast unites come the finale, it really packs a punch. Led by Limted’s inspiring Grace, the barnstorming ‘I Belong in Christ’ reinforces the joy and peace that come with knowing that you belong to the Lord. ‘I know I am known in you,’ she testifies, before the ensemble collectively demonstrate the impact of reflecting that knowledge, and acceptance, to others.
All this in a charity shop? That’s the inspired bit – Belongings shows that conversations about life and faith can happen anywhere. It’s a rousing celebration of the difference Army charity shops make in their communities, and a stirring challenge to all Salvationists to remember they might be the only interaction someone else has with the Army as a church. After all, no matter where you are, you belong in Christ – and that’s something to sing about.
- This review is based on the performance at Together 2023, with the cast subject to change at other performances. At Birmingham Citadel on 21 October, Nik King played God, while Jennie Blessett took the part of Susie.
Belongings on tour
Following a sold-out performance at Birmingham Citadel on 21 October, Belongings will visit 9 corps over the next 2 years. These dates are confirmed:
- 3 February 2024 Sheffield Citadel
- 4 April 2024 King’s Park Conference Centre (Easter Music Course)
- 8 June 2024 Regent Hall
- 5 October 2024 Princes Hall theatre (Clevedon)
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