Thursday, August 12, 2010

"Fresher. The Musical" - Edinburgh Fringe 2010

After an afternoon of really dreadful theatre, I sought reassurance from the Zoo Roxy box office that Fresher wasn't going to compound my woes. They were convincingly enthusiastic about it, so I took them at their word - and they were right. 'Fresher. The Musical' is the perfect tonic for just having seen a really bad show.

For a musical to work, every element has to be perfect. One underperforming vocalist or overacting cast member can be the death of a show, and I've lost count of how many times poor sound levels have rendered a musical almost pointless. But when everything comes together in harmony, like it does here, nothing else can energise an audience in quite the same way.

Set in a flat share during Freshers week, we begin with the first meeting of five students and watch as the dynamics within the group are established. The cast of five all make significant contributions vocally but they also bring additional strengths to the piece. Andrew Bryant shows great comic timing as the cocky and laddish Tuc, but also gives him a believable depth as the show develops. Natasha Barnes does well with the difficult task of making the unlikable Ally more than a cliche and displays some serious vocal talent. Steven Aspinall makes the twit-ish Rupert endearing and has the audience in fits of laughter while Mark Lawson convincingly conveys the turmoil Baz is experiencing. As Hayley, Victoria Gimby is the emotional heart of the show and she delivers a perfectly nuanced performance.

Sally Torode's book and Mark Aspinall's music and lyrics make sure the laughs keep coming but don't shy away from how hard those first days of student life can be. It doesn't take itself too seriously and happily mocks the musical genre at times to great effect. The balance of dialogue and songs is spot on and there isn't a poor musical number in there - and two or three are instantly memorable. A word also for director Guy Unsworth who keeps the show moving at pace while allowing the quieter moments room to breath.

Seeing the show is rather like the experience of Freshers Week itself - an absolute blast of energy and laughs, Fresher deserves to sell out every night.

Fresher. The Musical runs at Zoo Roxy until 30th August (not the 16th) at 17:35
Image used with permission