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Edinburgh Fringe 2017

Gilbert and Sullivan’s Improbable New Musical : The Fringe Lozenge

The Coily Darte Theatre Company

Genre: Comedy, Musical Theatre

Venue: theSpace on the Mile


Low Down

Magic lozenges help resolve the innumerable challenges that come with putting on a show at the Fringe.  And getting some mug of a reviewer to give you a few stars…..


According to this Gilbert and Sullivan parody, all a theatre reviewer needs to be able to do is stay awake and string together some standard phrases to describe the actors, set, sound, lights and costumes.  You know, things like “slick choreography”, “smooth scene changes”, “thoughtful characterisation”, “mellifluous singing” – you can fill in the gaps.  Cue much tittering from this particular critic.

Yet those random phrases I just threw out pretty much all applied here in a story that clipped along (unlike some G&S operettas I could mention), was wryly amusing and very well-drilled.  Throw in some clever costuming, good use of simple props and a supportive accompanist and you have all the ingredients for a very enjoyable show.

Gilbert and Sullivan wrote operettas about almost every conceivable subject, lampooning the elite of their day in the manner of the finest modern satirists.  But did they ever pen ditties focused on the powers of a magical lozenge bearing a striking resemblance to a Fisherman’s Friend?

Apparently they did, and the operetta celebrating The Fringe Lozenge is alive and kicking at theSpace on the Mile’s plush venue at the Radisson Hotel.  It’s essentially a parody of the Fringe itself – the hopes, the dreams, the expense, the logistics, the excitement, the stress and the ultimate joy of taking part in the World’s largest performing arts festival.

Without spoiling what is a labyrinthine plot in the finest G&S tradition, we’ve got two Fringe scene-shifters, turned landlords on the make, four Fringe hopefuls with their new musical, Idle Aunty, and the world-famous SoCoCoCo Theatre Company all weaving a course that ends up in their ultimate convergence.

The twisting, turning journey allows an in-depth exploration of some of G&S’s best known and many of their lesser aired arias, covering the ever popular Pirates of Penzance, Iolanthe, Pinafore and Mikado through to the lesser aired such as The Sorcerer and Princess Ida.

The show is carried by four young and versatile actor/singers (three female, one male) with occasional interjections from two rather more senior gentlemen playing the roles of Gilbert and Sullivan themselves.  And director Sue Ellerby has done a good job in shaping the show, ensuring that the plot keeps moving and the arias keep rolling out.

Sullivan’s intricate harmonies are left completely intact although were, at times, a shade too complex (and too high) for some of the voices trying to carry them off. But the cast worked hard to hold it together and, with some great support from Becky Norton on keyboard, they just about managed.  Well worth a visit for all G&S aficionados and anyone else after some uplifting music and gentle parodying of all matters Fringe.

There now, is that enough of the “standard phrases” to constitute a fair review?