Edinburgh Fringe 2012
You’ve read the books (oh yes you did). Now hear the songs. A fist pumping parody of the global literary sensation.
The narrative arc opens with a book group of dowdliy clad desperate housewives toying with the notion of discussing Austin’s Mr Darcy or Hardy’s Alec d’Urberville, both unassailed giants of supposedly improving literature. Instead they opt for E. L. James and her novel literary conceit in which the female protagonist is battered into a willing submission by the magnetism of a flawed male archetype in whom dwells some unsuspected spark of affection. My companion is reciting facts and figures concerning Erich Segal’s Love Story (either the novel or film) – their point being that such sudden commercial phenomenons are not unknown. James’ series of novels have stormed into the international bestseller charts as both pulp fiction and as the first great e-reader sensation. A punt on the musical rights to 50 Shades seems an assuredly safe investment.
The songs are all good clean stuff. As safe as a Hollyoak spin-off and about as amusing. The audio mixing is of the level we have come to expect from Assembly Hall this Fringe, tolerable but clunky. Accompaniment overrides voices more than once. This is a pity because some very fine vocal talent is on offer with strong engaging performances throughout. The score is an excellent blend of upbeat jazz stylings, pepy show tunes and occasional dark passages. This performance has been billed as a one off showcase. There are creases to be ironed out but neither is their an excess of starch. The show is a fresh as vietnamese pho, as well choreographed as an impromptu North Korean party rally and as lively as downtown KL during happy hour. It is fun, vivacious, filling and totally unnourishing. Those who think that’s a bad thing have rather missed the point.
Already those sewing mail sacks at Her Majesty’s pleasure have been put on overtime. Their output will be needed to hold the takings from the trillions of hen parties, ironic second dates etc who will be queuing round the block from Montreal to Mongolia to see this show. But what about me and all the other Christian Grey wannabes out there? How will we cope seeing our idol put through his paces? There is a moment in all good comedy where something clicks into place, when the laughs start coming free and easy. For me the moment can be summed up by the single word ‘leotard’. There are respectful adaptations out there, this isn’t one of them.
There is (apparently) a world beyond the Edinburgh Fringe. Shows which can hold their own during the three weeks of riotous assemblage that is the greatest cultural festival anywhere tend to emerge leaner, stronger and more flexible. 50 Shades! The Musical has been a one night only incubation. But be assured, Gizmo has been doused and this cultural gremlin has arrived.