Chris Grady: Edinburgh - the half-way mark
I'm half way through my 10 day stint, and I have to admit, I'm flagging. Today is a look-after-grady day. A bowl of fruit-salad, a veggie breakfast, lots of water and tea, and then I copped out at around 7pm, had a lovely middle-eastern meal on Potterrow and was home in bed by 10.30pm. Today I feel ready to face the world of Musical Theatre and emotional drama - my two artforms this festival - with renewed vigour.
But first, I headed to A Theory of Justice: The Musical! at C Venues - C and, as my review says, I enjoyed it a lot - especially when I realised that this witty, intelligent, tuneful, inventive, original musical was written by a group of University colleagues. I had, at first, thought it was a New York musicals festival show, picked up for a UK premier. But no, it is original and the journey will, I suspect, go the other direction. Hopefully Mercury Musical Development will encourage these writers to join, tighten up the show to within a crochet of its life, and submit it for the National Alliance for Musical Theatre (NAMT) February deadline.
Then I went to see what the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland was up to. I caught up with Freak Show (again, no programme). I gather from friends this is a devised piece and the writer is new. The college should know better - how can you champion graduating performers at a Festival if there is no programme of their names?
The show itself was not to my taste (although I know there are other colleagues who loved it). If you are going to take a hateful subject, and offer it in a violent and distressing way to an audience, then there has to be some heart that we can hold onto. We have to like the soul (if not the body) of some of the characters. The actors have to find a way to uncover humanity so that we can share in a journey of hope. A flatline world of despair does nothing except make me shut down, feel sick to my stomach and want to get out of the theatre as fast as possible.
Well, I was out of there like a rocket, and moved across to a new piece in development; Between Empires, which was given a fantastically powerful performance of the existing material by a crack team of professional singers, Indian and Western musicians, and the best possible design on a sixpence of a stage.
I sense it is a piece we will see much more of when they have developed this look at love on the Raj between English soldier and local noble princess. It's destined to be much more than just a simple love story of relatively stock characters. I also suspect the characters will get richer, the music will get more Indian, the journey will become less expected, and the leitmotifs less referential to some of our major musicals.
It's worth a look, and the writers are in the theatre every day; do give them feedback, so they can see how best to develop as writers and producers.
A three show day seemed a luxury, but... night night !!