Edges

Wed 2nd – Sat 19th August 2017

reviews

Neil Suchak

at 11:02 on 11th Aug 2017

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‘Edges’ - the most recent offering from the Durham University Light Opera Group - follows the lives of four individuals who are entering the adult world of responsibility and relationships. The show was written Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, fresh off of their involvement with hit film La-La-Land, who have crafted a song-cycle performance that is one of the feel good hits of the Fringe. With such songwriting pedigree behind it, one would have extremely high expectations of the show - and it is safe to say that even such high expectations were exceeded by the four person cast.

This show presents four of the finest voices that one will find in the Fringe this year with each managing to capture the hearts of the audience through the power of their melodies and their knowing delivery of the humorous and heartfelt lyrics. That it is so difficult to pick out a single star vocal performance is testament to the impeccable quality of each of voice on display in ‘Edges’. The real stand out may in fact be the four way vocal harmonies that are created at regular intervals during the play that are enough to draw even the most cynical audience into this charming and entrancing coming-of-age tale. And this is not to forget the trio of backing musicians who navigate and control the subtleties of the musical score with seamless style and aplomb. It is, of course, easy to descend into the realm of cliché when thinking of coming-of-age musicals, however, the writing is self aware enough to ensure that this is a production of the utmost charm. The cheesiness of certain songs was contrasted with other more satirical numbers to add up to a truly unique and witty musical production.

Though the show unmistakably a coming-of age tale, it was difficult to discern any distinct plot line, which proved slightly disorientating. Such a problem is perhaps to be expected when dealing with a show that is based around solely music and without any dialogue. Confusing as this may have been at times, the strength of the musical ability of the cast meant that even though the audience may have been slightly unsure as to what was going on, they knew remained spellbound by the music.

The very first moments of the performance were mired by minor technical issues with feedback from the microphones. And while such microphones are a necessity for performers, straining their voices to such extreme lengths every night of the Fringe, it was a shame that their use was not more subtle. One would hope that there might be slightly more finesse from the sound desk so as to capture the maximum power of the vocal performance - as at times the microphones made the characters seem as if they were shouting rather than reaching their operatic peaks.

Do not let these minor issues deter you from seeing this production. Especially for those who are fans of musical theatre, this ought to be at the top of the list of things to see at the Fringe this year.

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Elena Casale

at 12:20 on 11th Aug 2017

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It was more like ‘Pieces’ than ‘Edges’. DULOG’s rendition of the award winning, the award-song-cycle works in fragments: fragments of life performed in striking technicolour. As a whole, it lacked any kind of structural coherence, but each ‘piece’ was lyrical genius. Four protagonists acted as shifting embodiments that ranged from a boy experiencing his parents divorce, two renditions of a break up, and squabbles between siblings. ‘Edges’ incantatory music encapsulates some of the main crossroads in life, and as such appeal to all ages and experiences.

 

A strong cast ensured the lyrics were done justice in terms of both singing and acting. The four protagonists were expressive and clear, and Rosalie Minnitt absolutely shone. Vocal issues were infrequent and occurred as a result of technological faults, but in general the music was captivating. Far more than an accompaniment, the live band captured and incited shifts in tone, such as the recurring keyboard solos at poignant moments in the musical.

 

The number of solos seemed, at times, a bit excessive, and the director could have perhaps made use of the other characters as background singers rather than have them loitering around the stage. The songs themselves had all the characteristics of a Disney musical: simple full rhymes, perfect cadences, brilliant choreography and tunes that immediately stick in your head. ‘Be My Friend’ was one such moment: where lines such as ‘Please be my friend on the Facebook, Click accept, I`ll add your name to my list’… ‘If you refuse, I'll forget that you exist’ lend a punchy comicality to a harsh truth of our generation.  

 

The overwhelming musical excellence in each piece was of such a high quality that at times it masked the flaws of the work as a whole. Certain character recurrences meant that it was difficult to understand when scenes corresponded, or when they were new characters. The switch from father to son, for instance, was made by Man 1 simply by zipping up his hoodie mid song.  A general temporal haphazardness permeated the structure of the play, as we segments switch back and forth in time randomly – inciting a sense of plot confusion.  Certain moments were almost impossible to locate contextually, such as in ‘Lying There’. Where there was a continuation in music or character, it was seemingly random. This underlying disunity was, however, barely relevant to the enjoyment of the performance, which flourished through the quality of individual moments.

 

The song-cycle oscillates between pure comedy and underlying edification. In ‘Along the Way’, Man 2 sings of how ‘Life goes on… though our family history is crapped upon’ and the audience erupts with laughter. Later, he recalls his pressures and fears as about his oncoming parenthood. As such, ‘Edges’ is both a side-splittingly funny, feel-good musical, and yet also deeply authentic and allegorical. ‘Edges’ deals with issues diverse as being true to yourself, navigating difficult relationships, the relationship with the self, dating, meeting new people, family, and doesn’t always claim to have a solution for them. As such, what could have been a show to only watch once is given a kind of timeless appeal. 

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