My Editorís Award for Ovid's MetamorphosisDate: 27 August 2010
During the judges’ meeting to decide this year’s winners for the Musical Theatre Matters: UK Awards, which Whatsonstage.com sponsors, there was the usual annual debate about what exactly a musical is. The general consensus was that it’s a piece where music takes precedence over dialogue and the lyrics of the songs drive the plot forward.
With that in mind, there were a few productions that had made the shortlists, according to the awards’ team of assessors, that we judges felt didn’t fit the definition – and definitely not enough to win a prize in an awards aimed at promoting new work in the genre overall.
These included Lovesong, Che Walker’s monodrama fashioned around the songs and soulful performance of Omar and Ovid’s Metamorphosis. It was with no little amount of remorse that we concluded that we weren’t the right body to recognise the latter in particular.
In this simply breathtaking actor-musician piece Peter Bramley’s Pants on Fire company, Ovid’s Roman myths about transformation are reinvented in highly physical Swing-time style, relocated to the world 1940s wartime Britain and evoked through the innovative multimedia use of puppets, film, sliding screens, gasmasks, gramophones, dance, music hall and torch songs.
Every judge around the table simply loved the piece – even if it is more a play with music than a musical – as did everyone I spoke to who saw it. For me, it was without doubt one of the best of the 40-odd shows I saw in Edinburgh this year. So I was even more distressed to hear that, for other criteria – be it student vs professional status, number of previous performances, physicality - Ovid’s Metamorphosis isn’t eligible for the bulk of the Fringe’s other prizegivings either.
I feel I must right that wrong. So, for the purposes of this blog, I’m hereby inventing another award – the Whatsonstage.com Editor’s Prize, adjudicated by me Terri Paddock and my secret straw poll. And the winner for the inaugural year is – drumroll, please.... - Ovid’s Metamorphosis. I can’t promise any lavish ceremony, but if anyone from Pants on Fire want to come and collect their reward from me at the Palace Theatre in Soho – probably in the form of a cup of coffee and a yummy cake from Maison Bertaux next door on Greek Street – I heartily invite them to do so.
For the record, of all of the shows I personally caught in Edinburgh – of the 220+ reviewed by the Whatsonstage.com team on the ground (which is not bad going considering our resources) – others are particularly enjoyed were: Last Easter at Underbelly, Ovid's Metamorphoses, Barbershopera: Apocalypse? No! and Lovesong at the Pleasance Dome, You're Not Like the Other Girls Chrissy and Marion Allen's Number One Hobby at the Pleasance Courtyard, Could It Be Forever? and The Rap Guide to Human Nature at Gilded Balloon, Naked Splendour at C Central, and Celebrity Autobiography at the Underbelly Cowbarn.
And, of those, my favourite favourites are You're Not Like the Other Girls Chrissy, Last Easter and, yes, you guessed it, Ovid's Metamorphoses. I cannot recommend these three highly enough for theatre lovers. Finding gems like these at Edinburgh are, for me, what the festival is all about.