Edinburgh Fringe 2014
An honor thesis presentation from an American school that uses the Suzuki method to create new theatre. This is an episodic tale, told through song, word and movement of many lovers who wish to love and find ways to do so or they fall foul of their dreams.
The ensemble begin with “Sunday” from Sunday in the Park with George and as an ensemble they shine. This then breaks into individual short takes from The Girl Who Gave Up Love to Love Her Dream to The Man Who Would Not Leave to Love (The Capitals Are Theirs And Not Mine). We are introduced to characters who ostensibly come from one of Shakespeare’s plays but they can spout the words of others before a song takes them into the heart of the matter and provides a platform for the movement that has been created for each piece.
It is clever to take the words and music of a man who may be claimed to be the lyrical Shakespeare of the American musical of the Twentieth Century and mash them up with a bit of Shakespeare. It leads to a solidly written piece but it also needs care when looking at how you intertwine the songs of one with the words of the other. They need to weave together and not jar in the ear. This has been done with no little skill and you hear the words of one Shakespeare play begin but when the cast feel it needs a little from another we get it thrown in for good measure. Some of the extracts work better than others and the Macbeth scene for me was the weakest.
Just a wee note for the supporters who kept laughing; you were the only ones laughing throughout. If you are not involved in the company this may be ignored. Because the actors were getting laughter from only one section it stopped the actors working the rest of the audience. That is a key skill for any actor. As the audience were on three sides it was a highly necessary skill for each actor to learn. The performance to the sides – though we were small in number some had paid a ticket – was therefore not as slick as it should have been. This was a cast that needed to be challenged to learn new skills in a foreign land with a new audience and they consistently proved more than capable of rising to that artistic challenge.
This is a committed bunch and while it was not as tight at times as it should have been, there were some slick moves, committed cast members and with a black nail varnished, bowler hatted and bearded pianist we had a sound springboard. Some of the solo singing and movement did vary in quality but it was as an ensemble that their strength – and harmonies – worked best. By having a few holes in their slickness it made it feel all the more authentic and I found myself rooting for each performance rather than each performer. The music became a key character at times and the device of having the pianist almost as a guide worked well.
There was little by way of staging but what I did like was the paying of the pianist in rose petals; simple but highly effective. You really felt this was a labour of love and joy. It was received by us all as a tremendously rich exercise. Sometimes you can feel that this is just an academic exercise, something to get the cast through their final exams and not really a piece of entertainment. This cast transcended that and managed to deliver a very fine piece of entertaining observation that may have taught us little new but did manage to make me smile and feel like I had been at a show and not a lecture.
There was a great crowd for that time of day who were in to enjoy the show, which they did and their appreciation as warm and the cast well deserved it. Whilst there are some areas of criticism this is a piece that could take such criticism and I look forward to seeing a few of these names in the programme making it in their chosen career.