The Reviewers

Fri 1st – Sat 23rd August 2014

reviews

Hannah Blythe

at 09:39 on 14th Aug 2014

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‘The Reviewers’ was either the greatest piece of irony ever, or an unfortunate example of what its writers sought to mock. Charlesworth and Holland set out to create a musical that parodied the student Fringe experience. The play began with ‘The Token University Theatre Group’ performing ‘The Generically Angsty Show.’ After receiving bad reviews for her part in the performance, Kiera Cochrane built a career as an infamously spiteful Fringe reviewer. Eventually, one brave young writer, calling himself The Critic With No Name, challenged the villain and restored students’ faith in theatre.

Unfortunately, instead of making any interesting comment on the student Fringe experience, ‘The Reviewers’ committed every offence it mocked. The show’s main problem was its script. The storyline was weak and rambling and the gags were cringe worthy. Adam Holland Wells relied on student in-jokes about fashionable words and self-conscience references to his use of musical hacks.

One character warned a fellow student that the adjective ‘edgy’ was no longer cool. The writer seemed to think that ironically using terms like ‘literally’ and ‘classic’ constituted fresh comedy. Instead, the script sounded like a school production, written by keen but inexperienced sixth formers. And when I wasn’t cringing, I was spotting punch lines far in advance.

By contrast, the performance was pretty solid. The acting was generally convincing. Leading man, Lyle Fulton, impressed with some strong characterisation and a commendable American accent. The majority of the cast were strong singers, and Madeleine Hardy’s vocals were particularly impressive. The pianist led the ensemble of singers well.

My favourite song was ‘The Review Off.’ This number was playfully choreographed so that The Critic With No Name encountered one of Cochrane’s writers in an absurd Spaghetti Western-style show down. Laughter echoed throughout the audience as the two characters performed their ridiculous duel.

However, nothing was stunning enough to make up for the disappointing premise and script. Additionally, some production elements had been a little neglected. The choreography was largely uninspiring and the stage setting merely indicated that the play was located at the Fringe.

Unfortunately, the cast and the musician’s solid performances could not salvage this poorly conceptualised musical.

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Ciaran Stordy

at 10:55 on 14th Aug 2014

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Learning the subject of this musical before entry to the house made me cringe. I expected bitter scorn, scathing resentment, one big joke made at the expense of critics. I wondered if I’d be wrenched from my seat and beaten if they caught sight of my EFR jumper. At the same time I relished the prospect of watching a show about reviewers as a reviewer myself. The reality was friendly and amusing sing-song fun.

All seemed hopeless for a theatre company struggling to gather critical acclaim and deal with the censure of cynical reviewing house Spawn of the West End Reviews before the Critic With No Name materialised to sprinkle praise like fairy dust over a gloomy Royal Mile. In this story of two rival reviewing houses various actors found themselves caught in the midst of a vicious conflict that mocked not only cruel but naïve reviewing too.

Dialogue was graced by flashes of sharp wit and the score showed itself capable of sweet sounds. Much of the humour used was outrageous and made me guffaw half-guiltily. Although the sights of this parody were firmly set on the occupation of reviewing, it extended itself to the satire of matters as disparate as free speech in the USA, belligerent cockneys and modern romance. Not even obsequious theatre companies escaped the barrel as envoys were sent to seduce critics into awarding five-star reviews.

The cast was confident both in a musical and comical capacity. They moved about stage heartily and wavered little in song. Props on set depicting the Royal Mile gave the show a definite setting but also imposed limits; it would have benefitted from a wider variety of locations – the Fringe is not contained within one street.

This show avoided the jarring irony of being cynical about cynicism because it refused, rightly, to portray reviewing as such. A reviewer is nothing more than a spectator evaluating entertainment for other spectators. I took a lack of contempt among the cast as sign that they understood this.

The Reviewers is especially enjoyable for anyone in any way familiar with life at the Edinburgh Fringe but others too can find jokes to laugh at.

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