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The Melody Blog, at Edinburgh

Friday, 2 September, 2011

Zoo Roxy—Edinburgh—3-27 August—18 30 (1hr)

The Melody Blog tells the stories of Melody and Harmony, children bred to be musical by their ambitious singing parents.  Brought up on a private island inhabited by musical actors they know nothing of ‘talking’ and communicate solely through music—Melody sings while her unfortunate brother (born tone deaf and glossectomised by his father) plays guitar in place of speech.  If this story sounds somewhat daft, it only gets worse—Melody’s entire life is streamed live on the internet and her improvised songs are snapped up in Sony record deals that make her father millions.  Of course, all the actors (it is explained laboriously) rehearse their parts and only the prodigy children improvise (how they have conversation in this way is a mystery).  After about fifteen minutes one finds oneself desperate to know why Amnesty International haven’t turned up already to protect the innocent young people from this well advertised world of injustice.

The cast are talented musicians; there are only a few bum notes and a couple of wooden acting moment.  But the whole concept is so ridiculous you feel sorry for them. It is hard to blame the romantic male lead for his tired and sometimes half-hearted delivery.  Furthermore the music is boring and tepid, it is un-scored, but doesn’t have the dramatic tension of improvisation; it just comes across as a bit lazy.  One can hardly imagine Melody’s earth shattering ‘improvisations’ melting hearts world-wide.  The idea that all these singers should be at the Royal College of Music adds another layer of idiocy as there is no actual classical music in the entire repertoire, and suggestions of it are ludicrously unskilled and badly done.  Unsurprisingly, vignettes that depict characters discussing the wonder of Melody are just implausible.  They also give the show a slapdash and shabby edge.  It comes to feel like a poorly devised GCSE drama piece.

There are some moments that afford gentle laughter and the sincerity and warmth shown by most of the cast is appealing.  There are particular glimmers of light in the performance of Andi Bradley who bubbles as the hyper-energetic Violetta, an American technical whizkid in Legally Blonde attire.  However, even the elaborate white back drop onto which the stage action is filmed and projected in real time cannot detract from the silliness of the story being told.  And, when the battery pack runs out halfway through the show, this set decision becomes groan-worthy.  Then Melody is set up with the island’s lighting tech so that she’ll churn out a love ballad for Valentine’s day, before having to endure watching him cheat on her so she’ll come up with a teenage angst track, and the show hits new pantomimic lows.

The death of predictably named Cantata, at the hands of the evil Conductor, is sad, but as the whole show lacks any modicum of plausibility one can’t suspend one’s disbelief and care too much.  It is a shame that a group of well meaning and talented singers and players (flute, trumpet, sax, double bass, glockenspiel…the list goes on) weren’t blessed with a better show to perform, I’m sure they would have done it very well.  Luckily, the audience indulged them for this reason.

Cast Credits: Vincent – James Rowbottom, Melody – Tabitha Tingey, Cantata – Isabella Della Porta, Harmony – Alfie Tingey, Rubato – Rhys Whitfield, Violetta – Andi Bradley, Toccata – Abi Simpson, Fugue – Zoe Hughes, Vibrato – James Fawcett, Forte – Elliot Reeman, Neighbour – Reuben Lemer, Legato/teacher – Conor Nelson, Little Lucy – Bathsheba Tingey

Company Credits: Music & Script – Chloe Tingey, Co-Direction – Chloe Tingey & Clemency Thorburn, Co-Production – Eleanor Treadwell & Hester Tingey,  Choreography – Abi Simpson

Reviewed August 27th Rebecca Gibson 2011

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