Edinburgh Fringe 2010
a journey into Haiti and its stories, realised in story performance, musical backdrop and theatre. Set before and after the Haiti earthquake, Cassandra is an orphan whom some wealthy tourists have in their sights for adoption.Then Port-au-Prince is hit by an earthquake, leaving Cassandra and her sister underground. Two spirits Baron Samedi and Papa Legba then vie for Cassandra’s soul.
Leaping God Sly takes us to Haiti. The show has an upbeat feel from the moment the audience walks in, the fourth wall is down as we enter, we are invited to sit forward, not back and enjoy, by the direct way we are greeted.
The show is a mix of performed story and music that too often feels a bit lacking in tightness. It’s always a bold thing when young casts take on folk stories which require the playing of older mothers, fathers, grandparents and the like. To succeed requires the physical and partly emotional overcoming of oneself. One has to step into the deeply imagined skin of another, older person. It requires a forcing of the voice along oft-untrodden vocal and breathing paths. Or, conversely, the younger group can decide not to even attempt it and play all older characters as themselves, relying instead on staging, props, vocal and gestural delivery, and mostly the content of the piece, allowing the words, to shine through. It’s similar with accent – either you do it fully or not at all. Leaping God Sly can’t quite decide which path to take and ends up taking both which dilutes the effectiveness of the piece. It did get stronger as the hour progressed.
I’ve seen better from this group. Here the stories do not fully come to life and much of the dialogue is too inconsistent. Some actors sound as if they are still stuck in recitation, others in caricature. This inconsistency lets it down – more development is needed, and it means they do not successfully transport us to Haiti. I sense this might have all worked better with a smaller cast.
The ensemble physical movement needs to be tighter. There are physical theatre companies here at the Fringe with split second timed choreography and spine tingling chorus singing. This show falls short of that standard too often but that isn’t to say the standard is poor; it could just be better. Towards the end the ensemble settled, the silences became more affecting and the central character drew is in more. A sense of the story’s mood began to float across the fourth wall and into the rows of seats at The Bedlam.
It is a pity the quality is so mixed because the show itself is warm-hearted and what it seeks to do makes for a show that is an invitation into a culture and its story tradition that is rich and symbolically relevant to us. The chosen material is engaging. The endeavour, the commitment cannot be faulted. The energy is high and some of the set pieces work well and all nine performers form vital pieces of the visual picture. At other times the stage just looks a bit overcrowded. And sometimes the hurried delivery and lack of clarity distances audience and story from each other. Loud vocal delivery should never sound like shouting unless it is intended as a shout. The use of microphones was clunky, out of place and unnecessary and the sound quality was poor. The final song was set too low for the main singer.
That said, the material is pleasing and riich, and when the ensemble are working well together, the piece hints at their work at previous Fringes. This is a show that I think will get better over it’s run and will be better if and when it finds it’s feet proerly in the production. But it certainly is worth a look and is a pleasing enough way to spend an hour.