Edinburgh Fringe 2011
A musical tale of facing thresholds, and reliving regret, told physically in Babolin’s unique ensemble style. What really happened to Berthe on the mountain, and are we ready to jump for those we love?
Babolin return with a musical jaunt in the mountains. To Avoid Precipice Cling to Rock is full of verbal and physical knockabout and harmonious mayhem as we follow a troupe of young women as they revisit a place of regret and confront their own thresholds – both physical and emotional, along the way. Their previous "Leaping God Sly" was rich with inventiveness and the ability to create and hold a theatrical mood. To Avoid Precipice Cling to Rock adopts a very different tone, but contains Babolin’s signature ensemble excellence, commitment from every muscle, and a sense of artistic risk and adventure that can border on bewilderment for an audience, but rarely falls short of terrific watchability and enjoyment.
Eight girls relive memories of Berthe, a friend who fell, a friend they abandoned, but a friend who perhaps is not as gone as they thought. Only a wild mountain man, played hilariously at times by another member of this talented group, knows her fate. But he has a few wishes of his own!
In Miserables-esque operetta style a lot of the comedy comes from the ensemble behaving as a kind of meta-human, reacting as one creature in song, and then bursting apart into individual vignettes. The music is always enjoyable, with clever lyrics and an anarchic sense of fun with the form. The individual singing isn’t always as strong as the ensemble singing, and some are better actors than others, but even the weakest of them are pretty good, and the sheer sense of a fully committed artistic community at work, offering us their show, as one, creates a true and very impressive synergy.
This production is many things at the same time: delightful, uplifting, occasionally confusing, infectiously funny, moving, and full of things to reflect on. Hilde goes missing, but will her friends jump for her? Would we jump for those we care about? The show has an enlivening quality as it demonstrates before us not only the power of friendship and mutual support, but also how a truly ensemble cast, working with 100% bodily and soul commitment, to vocal, musical and physical performance, can become more than the some of its parts. We grow to know and like the individuals, but also to value the sheer energy and power of the group, at times, really a sixteen-legged beast of impressive musical theatre.
The ending of the piece doesn’t quite serve as the crescendo it needs to be. Overall, though, this is a unique show on the fringe, bursting with heart and talent, mischievously entertaining, riding on a wave of energy and earnestness that will be hard to match elsewhere.