Edinburgh Fringe 2023
An hour of what looked like complete chaos but was actually a well scripted, catchily scored and tightly choreographed piece of theatre.
The tight stage down at Greenside’s Infirmary Street Olive Studio has just a couple of crates and four suitcases on it as the cast of four Oxford undergraduates burst forth, already in full song in what proved to be a hugely enjoyable (and funny) show about an obituary writer who, passed over for promotion by the boss from hell, decides to write his own obituary, fake his own death and press life’s reset button in an attempt to fulfil his dream of becoming a best-selling novel writer.
Cue an hour of what looked like complete chaos but was actually a well scripted, catchily scored and tightly choreographed piece of theatre. It works at two levels – the absurdist, caricature fest that it presents to the audience but with the subtle undercurrent of a young couple struggling to find the elixir of life. But is there really a magic reset button after all? Sometimes you just need to play the deck of cards you’ve been dealt.
The brainchild of writer and co-director Felix Westcott, it features a host of caricatures, most of which veer amusingly towards the absurdist. The music, beautifully orchestrated by Declan Molly, features a range of genre including ballad, big band, jazz, swing, rock and even the occasional bit of rap. The lyrics are clever and witty and all of this is neatly woven around Westcott’s sharply observational and topical script. And it’s pretty much all action with the quartet barely pausing for breath as scenes segue with creative alacrity.
Whoever did the casting got it right. Tom Freeman (John, the obituary writer) is suitably dream-like and scheme-like as he plots his restart in life. Eva Bailey (John’s new wife, struggling to cope with their new son) shows just the right amount of angst and concern in delivering the main character role of the piece whilst Chris Goodwin (John’s friend Paul and his psychiatrist) is a bundle of energy in one role and mad as the proverbial fruitcake in the other (I’ll leave you to guess which description applies to which role).
But spare a thought for Eliana Kwok who, in addition to playing a multitude of roles also appeared to be the mastermind behind many of the slick scene changes, moving with feline grace whilst arranging a variety of set/props and being note perfect during this multi-tasking scenario. And her vignette as the vicar conducting the “funeral” of the “departed” John stole the show for me – superficially sombre but wringing every ounce of comedy from the one-liners she’d been handed by Westcott. Worth the admission money alone!
The quartet, as well as being as being more than competent actors, were all pretty much note perfect throughout, exhibiting some great harmonies when singing as an ensemble whilst each demonstrating strong, expressive solo voices.
Tiggy Jones deserves a massive “shout out” for the work she’s done to choreograph (as well as co-direct) the piece. The stage she has to work with is small, the scene changes are frequent and the ensemble pieces benefited from having movement to help tell the story of the song. Her attention to detail in this regard was exemplary and really enhanced the show.
This is an intriguing piece of musical theatre that holds the attention and makes you think. Is life really all that much greener on the other side of the fence? Is destroying the life you’re leading in the course of pursuing your dreams really the right route to take? Yet it’s never oppressive, depressive or even didactic. Rather, it’s a light touch lesson in the living of life. Well worth a look.