Edinburgh Fringe 2010
Sublime harmonies, dazzling wit and a storyline that has you laughing from the first line to the last, Barbershopera scale new heights in the art of musical theatre. Truly unmissable.
Back with their third musical comedy following rave reviews and sell-outs in 2008 and 2009, Barbershopera have hit the note on the head again with Apocalypse? No! Like their previous hits, this is a spirited, silly, surreal and at times absurdist piece of musical theatre. Mixing farce with commedia dell’arte in terms of their delivery, the end product is as tight as a drum with the superb a cappella soundtrack allowing the quartet to take plenty of liberties with the biblical thesis whilst maintaining that all important semblance of believability.
God’s four archangel auditors are engaged in their bimillenial audit of the human race and determine that the ills of money, politics, love and ineffective hand dryers have rendered the world an unsustainable entity. The only solution is an apocalypse, no? Yes! So God summons four dastardly horsemen to reek total destruction. Pestilence, War and Famine gallop forth to do His word but come to a clattering halt. Where’s Death? Turns out he can’t make it – apparently he’s just died – but along comes a young primary teacher called Beth in search of the St Anne’s Leisure Centre but who finds herself instead in Satan’s Leisure Centre.
Read that last bit again a couple of times at the right pace and you will get some idea of the way writers Robert Castell and Tom Sadler work. Their lyrics deliver the satirical, the sardonic, the ironic, the plays on words, the hilarious and downright left field idiocy.
Turns out our three horsemen are closet pacifists, unable to bring themselves to reek destruction on anything. So, with the execution of God’s will as her only route back to a so-called normal life on earth, Beth is forced to organise these equivocating equestrians and despatch them on missions to create a share market in woolly mammoths, deny Barry White his lifeline supply of Yorkshire puddings and wreck Greek attempts at democracy through an excess of ouzo as they seek to destroy the evils of money, love and politics respectively. Oh, and they manage to blow away the mad German invention of a slow blowing hand dryer. Crazy stuff and zany humour that had the audience in hysterics.
Wave after wave of wonderful one liners tumble around you as their impeccable four part harmony, superb characterisation and spin-on-a-sixpence choreography weave this tale of sublime humour leading to that essential moment of tension before God finally appears in the form of a plastic bovine and sanity ultimately prevails.
This is a group at the top of their game, they exude quality from every pore. The combination of soprano (Lara Stubbs), two tenors (Pete Sorel-Cameron and Rob Castell) and bass (Tom Sadler) creates a captivating barbershop harmony sound. Their characterisation, always strong, has reached new heights this year. And licked into shape by director Sarah Tipple, the movement and delivery is of the highest order. It’s a superb piece of theatre. And if laughter could indeed cure the ills of the world, then can we please have Barbershopera available on prescription.