FringeReview Scotland 2015
Khaled has lost a brother. He thinks that starting a choir, in Wishaw shall help him cope and bring some disparate people together from within a community. It does for a while before the disparate nature of people, like a diaspora brought together through geography causes tension, secrets to spill and arguments to take over. Khaled then disappears before returning to celebrate another member of the choir taking her turn to wander.
As I entered one of my favourite venues to endure my least favourite genre of theatre I had trepidations; thank fully they did not multiply once the drama began. This is a play with a great deal of music but it serves as a backdrop and a platform for the drama. Rather than shoe horned in, the music sings along with the narrative. It is a very good structure which means I am not facing songs that spring out of nowhere to be sung at me. Very quickly I went from wondering whether this was a musical or a play with music to sitting back, forgetting dichotomies and just enjoying it; it caught me and I was not alone.
The response to this piece was warmth and affection – and not too few standing ovations. It was more than just the recognition that Deacon Blue’s Ricky Ross had something to do with it. It was that the characters resonated, the relationships rang true and the performances were sufficiently nuanced that we got caught up in their narratives. There were some familiar faces onstage and names in the programme but the Tory Councillor was as convincing as the zero hour contract Sports Direct seller.
The vehicle which was to have a choir where every member had to bring a song that meant something to them which they then had to teach the rest drew out the subtleties of sub text. The business man’s wife, aforementioned councillor, sang about capitalism. The pained ex con sang about pain. The thing that it did to all was to draw the sub conscious into the dialogue. Music became more than the muse it was the gateway into unwritten melody and unsaid thinking.
On a couple of occasions I did wonder about the text but these were fleeting and no sooner had I thought we may stray into cliché and caricature than we were off onto the deep and meaningful story of tender love or lonely loyalty. The script also avoided the obvious and refused to find resolutions where ones would have felt forced or clunk in the narrative. It was not, though, afraid of giving us a happy ending with the romance back on track.
All of this was conveyed by a cast that mastered it all with ease and aplomb. It’s great to see Sandy nelson playing broody and Peter Polycarpou demonstrates why his origins were in musical theatre. Myra McFadyen is a delight and demonstrated how one scene can capture an entire play when she was introduced. All of the cast gave polished and brilliant performances but special mention must go to Scott Reid who played Scott. If there was the threat of a cliché it will always come whilst playing a typical Glasgow ned – all raised hands and unhappy expletives. Reid managed to drag Scott into the centre of his scenes whilst not forgetting to allow others to support his bullishness and aggression. His scene with Johnson Willis in Sports Direct was a great favourite of mine. It showed just how good this young actor is, though with such a sterling cast behind him I am sure he learnt a massive amount from those around him.
To say that I liked this would be an understatement. The set was tremendous and gave us the old hall feel as a strong starting point. The music was by Ricky Ross… enough said. The styles and the feeling of genuine respect for the notes were evident. Technically there was no bum notes either.
This is a co production with the Ambassador Group and this seems like a hit on their hands. I hope that once the hands have stopped clapping, the feet stomping and they finish taking the mickey out of my name they can get on with a tour; some things should just not be kept in Glasgow.