Edinburgh Fringe 2009
Young Pleasance returns with rip roaring pace, combining WW2 period setting and musical theatre to create the gem that is A Grave Situation. With an enormous and multi-talented young cast, the most detailed and creative costume design I’ve seen at the fringe, and a first class script, this truly is utterly fantastic.
1940, the war is raging. With bodies being sent back at upmost speed, the Wilberforce brothers contribute to her majesties service as gravediggers that is, at least, until they are called up – exceptionally bad timing, especially for Chippy, whose romance with librarian, Ethel, is only just about to reach it’s fluttering heights. On arrival at France’s distance shores, it is revealed that the brothers have accidentally buried their rifles back on Dover beach. With the Germans getting ever closer and now supremely underprepared, they are forced to do what they do best: dig for home. Will they ever return to blighty? Will Chippy and Ethel ever see each other again?!
The huge cast are all brilliant: not one is a weak link and they all hold the stage very well for such young actors. They can all act, sing and dance and are enviously talented. None of the actors have been poorly cast and they all fit and suit their roles. The five brothers have brilliant onstage presence and chemistry and Jo Stolerman shines as the adorable squeaky-clean Chippy. The script’s characterisation is a little stereotypical- the evil Germans, the seductive French women, the cumbersome British brothers – but it works with the nature of the play as they are all gently mocked and it is decidedly tongue is cheek.
The space at the Pleasance is used to its limits and the set is both highly creative and exceptionally well used: it fits perfectly with the script. Lighting and direction is totally faultless and it is clear that the piece has been well practiced and is sharply executed. The only fault, and minor at that, here is that the sound levels of the music in some of the songs is a little overpowering, especially in solos, and the actors are sometimes a little lost under it. Staging is first class, with moments of absolute genius – a certain aeroplane scene specifically comes to mind, and clever use of a parachute to portray clouds. Furthermore the choreography is sharp and clever, and the cast move around the stage with a tight accuracy. The piece is a visual delight.
The script is also excellent, co-writers Tim Norton and Ned Bennett have truly triumphed. It is fast paced, hilarious and heart-warming: It will keep you entertained, gripped and laughing for the entirety of the piece.
Finally, a special mention needs to go to the costume department under Simone Jones. Everything is period set, believable and immaculately maintained. It is the hand made marzipan on-top of the powered milk cake: it gives an edge to the piece and a polished and professional feel.
A Grave Situation is outstanding and the reason this review reads somewhat like a list is because there is so much to praise, too much to mention and too many details that are worthy of merit. It combines everything that an exceptional show should do: script, acting, production and direction. It’s slick, professional, hilarious and engaging. Furthermore, and a rarity at the fringe, I would boldly state that anyone would love it: it is suitable for the entire family as well as the serious theatre appreciators. I cannot recommend it to you enough. Go now.