Putting it Together

Wed 7th – Sat 10th August 2013

reviews

Rose Bonsier

at 10:02 on 9th Aug 2013

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This year’s Fringe performance of ‘Putting It Together’ is literally what it says on the tin. It’s a cabaret show of performances from the most elite graduates of The Dance School of Scotland, which have been put together with short monologues and duologues to create a rip-roaring showcase. The three powerful female leads that I saw perform had compiled their acts themselves, taking songs and dialogue from a selection of plays and shows.

These three young women were quite clearly tremendously talented, and very highly trained in their art, and the performances they gave were spectacular. Only from the most successful professional singers have I ever heard such impressive vocals. However, I do have to confess that I didn’t like the style in which they had been directed to sing. I felt that they were trying to imitate a Broadway musical, and, in doing so, it appeared a little forced and false. I particularly struggled to come to terms with the fact that the performers spoke in such beautiful Scottish voices yet sang with an Americanised accent in an overly stylized way. I would have loved to have heard them perform more naturally as I personally felt that the exaggerated performances made it difficult to connect with the characters they portrayed.

In complete contrast, it’s ironic that the acting of these talented performers in the short dialogues was almost certainly the best I’ve seen at the Fringe so far. These were so naturalistic and had a real emotional depth that I didn’t feel was so present in the songs. The first duologue between Iona Forbes and her male counterpart, for example, absolutely took my breath away. The seriousness and passion of this scene was balanced perfectly with a dark but warm humour from both of the actors. Equally as incredible was Erin Hair’s duologue from 'The Glass Menagerie', which was again acted outstandingly, as was Stacey O’Shea’s monologue to her daughter’s lover.

My view will inevitably be tainted by my own preference for naturalism, and I certainly don’t wish to detract from the fact that this was a cracking show by a phenomenally able group of performers who I am absolutely certain have the most fantastic careers in musical theatre ahead of them.

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Amber Segal

at 12:47 on 9th Aug 2013

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Tonight’s performers of The Dance School of Scotland’s 'Putting It Together' were all accomplished singers and clearly ardent fans of the theatre. Iona Forbes, Stacey O’Shea and Erin Hair (standing in for Megan McGuire) created polished ‘personal cabarets’ by mixing musical numbers with scenes from plays. While the girls’ skill is obvious, some of the compositions did not keep my attention for their allotted fifteen minutes.

First of all, the drastic shift of accents was off-putting. I appreciate the girls had an impressive ability to perform each section of the cabarets with the original pronunciations, but the sudden changes alienated me from the performance and the performer, thus detracting from the ‘personal’ element we were promised. The disjointedness of this made it hard to follow the concept behind each piece bar the second, Stacey O’Shea’s.

The narrative of the ‘Life of a Park Bench’ performance was simple: these are all people on the same park bench at different times. O’Shea’s monologue addressed to ‘Ewan’ was well-acted, harsh and funny, while ‘Poisoning the Pigeons’ was a brilliant choice. She made good use of confectionery and was imaginative throughout. Additionally, O’Shea was the only one to engage with one of the unaccredited males/props in a duet which made for a welcome variation in sound.

While Forbes and Hair matched O’Shea in vocal and acting talent, I enjoyed the structure of their pieces less. Hair’s 'Glass Menagerie' was out of place with the rest of her ‘Ordinary Thursday’ motif, and some of the performance looked static, apart from a few moments of amusing dancing. Similarly, Forbes’ movement could have been used to better effect in her piece entitled ‘The Fairy Tale of Real Life’: she too spent much time sitting down. Although her scene with her male was beautifully acted, well-chosen and humorous, I felt the composition overall lacked cohesion.

The three are well-versed in traditional, piano-accompanied and often American musical songs and perform them with panache, sporting Broadway smiles throughout. If you are a particular fan of this genre, the show will be a rewarding game of ‘spot the quote’. However, this is unfamiliar territory for me. I was utterly impressed but not inspired, as the whole production seemed rather like a final exam. Although these students are pitch-perfect and the direction sleek, the justification for song and scene choices was lacking. How it was put together was in fact the least successful part of 'Putting it Together'.

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