The Cameron Mackintosh Highland Quest for New Musical winners the Kielty brothers and One Academy Productions bring ActiveVirgin to Edinburgh for its premier, and in many ways this reviewer wishes they hadn’t bothered. Following on the heels of the highly-lauded WastedLove this piece seems to suffer from serious lack of effort on the part of the hugely praised writers.
The story tracks the quest for the body beautiful and the obsession it has become for the 247GYM members. They are beginning to lose track of what’s really important in life – but will the madness stop before it’s too late?
Again the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland deliver the most accomplished of vocal performances but the acting was straying wildly into hammy territory. The blame though can be put squarely in the lap of the writing. As well as being musically uninspired, with too many ensemble pieces, it felt like a step back in time as far as originality. It is a series of disjointed vignettes rather than a cohesive piece and it needs a clear thread to string it together. We are treated to Botox; plastic surgery, steroids, self-hate and serious amounts of misogyny with few of the advertised laughs, and the uncomfortably forced jokes soon wear thin.
Ultimately all this show is trying to say is that the search for perfection is impossible but it takes an hour to tell it, and with little variation it makes you wish the minutes away.
If this is your first experience of One Academy or the Royal Conservatoire then don’t let this put you off, they’ve been let down by their choice of material rather than their abilities. Save your money and go and see one of their other shows: Company or Towards The Moon.
Who would have thought that the less than glamorous Scottish port town of Greenock would be the setting for a musical? But hey, this is the Edinburgh Fringe and as we know, anything’s possible here.
Bobby (Ryan Paterson) is a 24 year old dreamer, desperate to be a writer but fed up with his humdrum life – no job, no girlfriend and no pals. But his luck changes after a near-death experience when an angel appears offering him the chance to turn his life around, finally achieve his dreams and reach the moon – but at a price.
Towards the Moon is a brand new show from Andrew McGregor, one of a group of musical writers emerging from Scotland. New it may be, but the Faustian pact is as old as time, McGregor manages to keep it fresh by making our anti-hero an ordinary Joe and updating the setting to the present day. The piece wears its Scottish influences on its sleeve and anyone who has seen a Bill Forsyth movie will spot the parallels.
It is very much a work in progress: the storyline is simplistic and the music needs work to give the performance some variation in tone, but real potential is there. The skill of the performers also helps to energise the piece: Paterson breathes life into the character of Bobby and is helped by an appealing performance from Kylie McMahon as best pal Mags.
Despite the flaws, it’s a positive start from writer McGregor. There’s real warmth and charm here and it’s certainly a chance to see the beginning of successful careers for the actors who are the cement that holds this show together. Again the Royal Conservatoire prove that a quality performance is assured where you see their name.
Bobby is 35 and in the opinion of his friends and multiple girlfriends it’s high time he settled down. As he watches the couples around him disintegrate, the single guy wonders: Is this worth giving up my life for?
One Academy, the production arm of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, take on Stephen Sondheim’s Tony Award-winning look at relationships in Company, bringing a freshness and life to this classic.
As Bobby analyses his way through the relationships in his life, this highly polished company remind us why Sondheim is hailed as a genius, and the Conservatoire lauded for producing the best new talent. The quality and class of this production just shines through: they deliver a sound of richness and depth that does full justice to the multi-layered music that defines Sondheim. As Bobby, Douglas Walker gets to play one of the most iconic roles in musical theatre and does so with believable emotion, but this isn’t a one man show, this soul-searching piece is brimming with witty and sharply written songs which give the rest of the cast ample opportunity to shine and they do, in particular Kylie McMahon who gets to deliver the show-stopping ‘Getting Married Today’.
Where the production falls down is the set and costumes don’t represent the upper middle class New Yorkers that Sondheim wrote this piece for, but his message is still loud and clear: life is a journey to find what’s right for you, not what others want for you.
There’s so much here to delight, there’s never a dull moment musically, it’s brilliantly written and this cast is absolutely teeming with talent and despite being written in 1970 it’s as fresh and relevant as the day it was written.