Godspell

Fri 2nd – Sat 10th August 2013

reviews

Amber Segal

at 03:21 on 7th Aug 2013

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Nothing could have prepared me for the explosion onto the stage of the most energetic, confident and loud children on which I hath ever set mine eyes. All with strong, and very convincing, American accents and colourful costumes, I found myself plunged into the extravaganza of Forth Children’s Theatre’s ‘Godspell’. Is that Jesus playing the trumpet? Oh no, it’s John the Baptist; Jesus is over there in the denim waistcoat.

This Jesus, or rather Gus Harrower, was a talented chap. My favourite moment by far was the opening of an act which involved a genuinely humorous and stunningly performed musical medley with Jesus on the piano. Harmony Rose-Bremner lived up to her name with an impressive voice that was, to her credit, subtler than her cast-mates. The second half was generally snappier and showcased the actors’ talents more effectively with more variation in song and coherence in plot. All the singing was of an incredibly high standard but unfortunately the sound quality at the back of the crowd meant most of the melodic layers were lost to noise for the first half of the performance. After moving to the front, the sound improved but the lyrics remained dire.

For such a clearly talented group of young people, I cannot begin to imagine why they chose this piece. Being lectured in song is still being lectured. Losing count of the number of ‘God’s and ‘Praise the Lord’s, I felt like I was being punched in the soul by slick dance numbers. The plot, after a totally bewildering start, becomes a series of parables so familiar that even I, atheist daughter of self-hating Jews, knew the stories. This routine became repetitive quickly, though it involved some comic physical acting and a decent attempt at an Alan Sugar impersonation, among other funny updatings. Personally, I was waiting for the parable about putting minors in inch-thick foundation and red lipstick, but sadly it never came. The audience loved the Scottish references the company had inserted, and the moments of participation.

Miles from the Mile, the Inverleith Church setting does not seem to be limiting its crowd. The hall was full to overflowing, mainly with an elder generation, and many gave a standing ovation. The cast were amazing to behold, containing enough enthusiasm for three ensembles. It would be an honour to see the FCT perform something, anything, other than ‘Godspell’. Running at a hefty two and a half hours once the elaborate bows have taken place, this is a commitment I recommend taking only if you could happily spend that amount of time with both ‘Glee’ and God. Though this was not my cup of tea, I did leave the musical humming ‘Day by Day.’

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Rose Bonsier

at 16:27 on 7th Aug 2013

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FCT’s production of Godspell was brilliantly received by the audience, gaining a standing ovation at the end of the show for the talented young performers involved. I think this alone is testament to the hard work and energy the cast had put into the show, especially into the musical numbers which were all delivered with great showmanship. Whilst obviously not being as polished as a professional show, the whole cast clearly have a natural talent and, for a children’s theatre group, this was a very impressive piece.

At points I struggled to follow the plotline of the musical as it skipped through a series of biblical stories, but the cast acted each one out in an amusing way, updating parts of the script to be relevant to modern life. The co-ordination of the dance routines for each of the songs was fantastic, and they were quite clearly very well-rehearsed.

The major element of the production which really needs praising is the singing. Rarely have I ever been so impressed by such singing ability in such young performers. Gus Harrower was a remarkable Jesus, playing the piano with great skill as well as singing a huge number of solo parts with incredible character. Ronan Rafferty’s Judas made an equally strong impression on the stage, and the female leads were just as outstanding, with Hayley Scott giving a particularly mesmerizing performance as a woman saved from being stoned for adultery.

Particularly noticeable in this performance was the cleverly considered stage layout. The traverse design meant that the performers were all in good view all of the time and held a very close proximity to the audience, bringing them into the performance. In addition to this, a raised platform area at one end of the hall created a higher stage for key moments in the show, such as Judus’s betrayal of Jesus.

This is a company well versed in performing at the Fringe Festival - this Edinburgh based group has had a play involved every year since 1979 - and whilst Godspell might not be everybody’s cup of tea, as musicals go this impressive theatre company must have exciting things in store for future festivals.

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