Edinburgh Fringe 2014
It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye. And, actually, it’s still fun and games after that, too.
The Girl Who styles itself as the world’s first multi-path musical, inspired by the classic ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books. While that’s accurate enough, it’s also mildly misleading – it’s actually even smarter than that. A more implicit source of inspiration appears to be any ‘quest’ fairy story you care to mention, from Hans Christian Andersen to the Brothers Grimm, taking a diversion down the rabbit hole by way of Lewis Carroll.
Anna has become separated from her parents, for reasons that may or may not become clear, depending on the narrative that unfolds on the day that you see the show. You see, each performance can go in all manner of directions with a company that are in tight accord with each other, belting out powerful and hilarious songs with confidence and verve. It’s worth pointing out that the same company are performing The Addams Family musical as well.
At any point during the narrative, the audience can decide what happens to the little girl lost, Anna (played with great charm and guile by Neshla Caplan). And while this is a fairy tale in the classic mould, full of princesses, morals and friendships, it’s almost impossible to detect what age group this piece is aimed at. This, by the way, is a compliment – we’re now all at the age when the line ‘great for kids of all ages’ is a tired cliché. It just so happens that in this instance, the line is absolutely appropriate. The Girl Who is at various turns insanely infectious fun, and at other times, filled with poignant moments of aching beauty.
It’s a children’s musical with elements of grown-up sobriety to it, managing to be sombrely adult at the same time as being hyperactively childish – OC Disney, if you like. At one point, Anna wonders if she (and therefore the audience) have made the right choices in her journey. Presumably, there are many things that she might have missed. ‘You can’t see everything’, she is told, which will certainly strike a chord with any wide-eyed fringe-goer faced with the thousands of choices in their #unbored brochure. And it’s true. Try as you might, you’re always going to miss out on some good stuff. But here’s some advice that you’d be wise to take on: Don’t miss The Girl Who. Or you’ll be The One Who – missed out.