11: Cutting Edge Theatre

Wednesday, 17 August, 2011

Unimaginative, poorly executed and put-together musical

Edinburgh, Paradise in Augustine’s  –  6-28 Aug 11  –  20:45 (1 hour 15 mins)

A musical created to focus on themes central to World War One, World War Two and the current War on Terror is never going to be cheery viewing – or, as is the case with Cutting Edge Theatre’s production, even worth viewing in the first place.  Vague narratives attempt to convey varying aspects of a war experience, supposedly intended to establish parallels between the three separate time periods by focusing on the daily lives of the people directly affected – those on the front lines, those left behind, in concentration camps, and those giving the orders.  This proposed ‘cross-section’, while aiming to be representative of the whole, instead ends up being a confusing series of unclear, difficult to follow narratives that don’t capture the audience’s attention, evoke any empathy or identification with the constantly changing characters, or provide any sort of progression or climax to the piece.

Unfortunately the set design is as unfocused as the script – many costumes and a few chairs litter the stage, from which the actors create each micro-scene (of which there are far too many).  The implication through repeated dialogue ‘A hat. A coat. A watch. A tie.’ is that there is some significance to the clothing, that it represents something – regrettably it never becomes clear what that significance is meant to be, apart from the fact we all wear clothes, as did the people in each war scene depicted – a very moot point indeed.  There is also an attempt at the motif of a doll that is passed from character to character in some of the scenes – again, this is under developed, so there is no chance to grasp what it is meant to signify.  A half-hearted effort has been made to bring a multi-media aspect to the production, through the use of some extremely unsubtle and obvious slide shows which do little to enhance the onstage action.  Some poetry is also thrown into the mix, which the actors pass between them saying one word each – unfortunately this only serves to detract any emphasis on the actual words and destroy any rhythm or metre the compositions could potentially have.

Performances were lacklustre across the board – there was no sense of ensemble, and little or no connection with the audience.  Some truly terrible attempts were made at various accents, though not by every cast member, leading one to question why there was a need for accents in some cases and not others.  Some very generic American accents meant it was difficult to actually contextualise that story strand – in fact, it is so unclear that this reporter is still unsure as to whether that story followed a soldier or a suicide bomber, as both were implied at some point.  The songs were all very simple in terms of composition, the lyrics clunky and the harmonies unimpressive.  None were particularly memorable, and many blurred into each other due to their unfocused subject matter.  Only three stood out – one on propaganda, with unimaginative and poorly executed choreography newspapers(also featuring such lyrical gems as ‘everyone has their own perspective/it’s all propaganda’), one decent war tune comparing the trenches to Buckingham Palace, and something attempting to show how divorced modern women are from the suffering in third world countries – yet another theme that got thrown into the mix that seemed to come out of nowhere.

This was billed as a professional production that the programme states ‘does not seek to provide answers, it does seek to ask some questions, to challenge and inspire’ – the only question it inspires is ‘when will this appalling piece of theatre be over?’  Unfocused script, amateur performances and a lack of emotional connection or any sense of the stakes involved make it very hard to find anything redeeming about this work.

Cast Credits:  Maggie Brown  –  Helena, Sally, Frankie.  Katrina Graham  –  Carla, Rachel, Betty, Amy.    David Mutch  –  Humanity, Lukas, Henry, Billy.  Darren Niven  –  Charlie, German Guard, Yank.  Steven McIntyre  –  Riq, Edward, Tim.  Vicki Robertson  –  Sheza, Maggie.  Dylan Means & Luis Matthieson Mutch  –  sharing role of small boy.

Company Credits:   Book/Director  –  Suzanne Lofthus.  Composer/Lyricist  –  Ian Hammond Brown.  Musical Director  –  Alan Gibson.  Choreographer  –  Murray Grant.  Poetry  –  Oli Highham.  Stage Manager  –  Duncan Yellowlees.  Costume Co-ordinator/Props/Production Assistant  –  Katie Godfrey.  Projections  –  Katie Godfrey, Steven McIntyre, Suzanne Lofthus, Duncan Yellowlees, Amber Hine, Shona McKee McNeil (film sequence).

(c) Emma MacLennan 2011

Reviewed Friday 12th August 2011 / Paradise in Augustine’s, Edinburgh

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