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Review: Songlines (Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh Fringe)

DugOut and HighTide stage a new musical from Tallulah Brown

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Fanta Barrie as Stevie in Songlines
© Helen Maybanks

One-hour coming-of-age tales with music and quirky storytelling are not a rare commodity at the Edinburgh Festival. Songlines, then, courtesy of DugOut Theatre and HighTide, written by Tallulah Brown, doesn't feel unique up here. It tells the tale of two troubled teenagers in the countryside, their unlikely friendship and their attempt to make sense of the confusing and at times harsh world around them.

So not huge marks for originality, then, but despite this, Songlines will likely still melt most people's hearts. It's a quiet, classic Fringe gem – the sort of show you could easily recommend to pretty much anyone.

This is gig-theatre, with Brown's band Trills performing onstage with the actors. There's four mics, a keyboard, a guitar and some stools. The backdrop is a shimmering golden curtain and the musicians – Brown and Seraphina D'Arby – are adorned in festival-chic (flowery headbands, sandals, flowing dresses) and they provide the music. The songs don't make up the narrative, they are there for embellishment and atmosphere, replicating the way music has a palpable effect on the two characters at the piece's heart.

They are new girl in the village Stevie (named by her hippy mother after Stevie Nicks) and farmer boy Stan. Stevie is sent to live with her gran away from her old school and the city and her nearest neighbour happens to be the geeky, bullied Stan. At the bus stop they strike up a conversation – she's all eye-rolling, he's quietly persistent. But, it turns out, they are kindred spirits, both struggling with parents, with friends, with sex, with who they are and who they want to be.

The story has some nice heart-tugging moments and Fanta Barrie and Joe Hurst make a lovely, convincing teen duo. And the music is a nice balm – very Laura Marling-esque, D'Arby and Brown deliver warm, delicate vocals and melodies which mix folk and country. The script is a little predictable and the drama within it occasionally falls flat. But it's still a lovely way to spend an hour.

Songlines runs at the Pleasance Courtyard at 3.15pm each day.

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