They Shall Not Pass’ is the cry of a community who came together to stand against fascism in 1936 London. This story of the bravery of people from multi racial backgrounds who fought for their rights against the ever-growing support of Oswald Moseley’s brand of fascism is a glimpse of the near future and the rise of Nazism, and an important reminder for our lives today.

As a new musical by Tim Gilvin and Alex Kanefsky it captures the different families that reside in and around ‘the wrong part’ of Cable Street. With strong and eclectic styles of music which adds much to the understanding that these were people of different beliefs, but the same desperate need for recognition. Amongst these families separated only by their religions you have ‘star crossed lovers’ Sammy (Joshua Ginsberg), who is Jewish and Mairaid (Sha Dressi) who is Irish Catholic. Both give strong performances and very individual voices. Their antagonist is Ron (Danny Colligan) who feels driven to join the ‘black shirts’ through his own desperation for work. He has a strong emotional journey that is pivotal to the intimate story within the bigger story.

It is easy to recognise parallels with ‘Operation Mincemeat’, ‘Les Miserables’ and ‘Romeo and Juliet’ through its actions, characters, and subject matter, and because of this suffers a little. It is not that the cast of nine don’t all give great performances, many changing characters in the blink of an eye. Its that some of its eclectic decisions about the music styles at times become too much of a cacophony. And, in trying to follow several threads at the same time, becomes rushed and frantic.

The use of modern-day tours of the East End to provide the launch and then punctuate the story with the facts is a good ploy, and the switch out of those into the 1936 characters is most effective. What is less effective is the portrayal of Moseley’s blackshirts. Both the songs and the dialogue have a brevity that weaken the threat that they then provide when building up to the battle.

It is directed cleverly by Adam Lenson, who manages with few props and furniture to portray the many locations and dramatic moments, and switches these with clarity and precision on what is a tiny stage for such a large story.

This feels like the beginning of a journey for this musical that already has some memorable musical numbers but needs a few adjustments to make it great. Like the battle for Cable Street there is hope for the future.

Photo credit: Jane Hobson