Review: EDGES – A New Musical
This week’s offering at the Assembly Rooms theatre was something a little more unusual than we’re used to. Even avid fans of musical theatre may not have been totally educated in song cycle, but if Tone Deaf Theatre Company’s Edges is how we were taught, that was one pretty good lesson, following six performances play a seemingly unconnected variety of characters, all with different stories.
TD’s premier production of Pasek and Paul’s Edges explores the development of people literally on the edge (excuse the pun) of maturity, “standing close on the edge of distinction.” From sisters looking across their teenage-years gap, a boy with dreams working to get through college, a rather embittered girl supposedly recovering from a breakup, and the trials tribulations of a social networking sight (I’m not sure if you’ll have heard of it- Facebook?). This incredibly tuneful production was a pleasure from start to finish, visually and aurally, and had some incredibly strong and touching performances.
The thing I enjoyed about the show most was its diversity. From the opening ensemble piece, “Become,” it was quite clear that we were to see a range of “lives in photos,” snapshots of situation and the fears of being “who I am, who I want to become.” The well-spaced staging with varying levels (nicely allowing the actors to literally “take the next step”) and use of profile lighting started the show on a high level which was maintained throughout.
Hannah Howie and Nat Goodwin’s “Caitlyn and Hailey” was the first performance which really made me realise what was great about the show, as well as this particular production. Howie’s sweet portrayal of the younger sister (Hailey) looking up to her older sister, contemplating her maturity, was very well done and Howie’s humour in her response was incredibly entertaining, often stepping out of the song and speaking some of the lines, adding character and variety to the whole thing. Though chosen to be staged this way, Pasek and Paul’s incredible writing is really shown here. This song could have been portrayed in the complete opposite way, emphasising the sad nostalgia with which both sisters discuss their younger relationship. However, Gibbs’ emphasis on the humour worked really well, and added some variety to the emotion of the show.
Tash Cowley’s “Perfect” again demonstrated the versatility of this show, and of the incredibly talented performers within it. Stood alone down-stage, Cowley was completely exposed to the whole theatre, but her emotional delivery of a song exploring the fear of being alone and the complications of relationships was captivating. Both Howie in “Wylie” and Goodwin in “Lying There” also had their own emotional songs, and both (like Cowley) showed their competence in connecting with such emotions, especially when also showing the hilariously embarrassing side to growing up (such as Towley’s “Man of My Dreams,” who happens to be gay.) The girls of this show were incredible, but Goodwin’s “Lying There” was the stealer for the girls. Considering that she had fewer songs than the rest of the girls, the sincerity and gravitas of her performance was breathtaking.
Though they certainly set the bar high, Andy Kempster, Timmy Fisher and Joe Leather played just as big a part in making this show such a success. Leather’s “Along The Way” fused the tragic loss of the class hamster and the story of his family’s stained immigration papers with comedy, and yet still displayed the emotional difficulties the song contained. Kempster’s “Once I Knew” was so powerful, and really showed off his musicality and vocal strength, and Kempster and Fisher’s “Pretty Sweet Day” was full of energy and vitality.
The show is incredibly intelligent. The music often appears repetitive, but in fact provides unity between the scenes and reminds the audience of the cyclical nature of both the show and the characters portrayed within it. The band were phenomenal, and Chris Guard (the Musical Director) appeared to enjoy the show from behind the gauze as much as the audience. Edges contains so much and this cast and crew had exactly what was needed to pull it off.