If you like your musicals with an unhealthy dose of American cheese (from a can, naturally) set in a post-apocalyptic wilderness, then 1,000 Suns will set your world on fire. The town of Radiation Springs is isolated in a barren crater following a nuclear disaster, with the townsfolk developing extra limbs or succumbing to radioactive bouts of coughing. The adolescents of the town are idealistic and dissatisfied with life, looking for a better world beyond the wasteland in which they live. The cast of nine, plus a two-man live band, have the distinct advantage of being so photogenic they appear permanently airbrushed. They are also vocally strong - impressive considering the lack of microphones - though the content of most of the songs is so saccharine it would rot your molars.
The script and storyline are also predictable as Scottish rain. From the good little church girl falling for the James Dean lookalike from the wrong side of the dustbowl to the fate of a character who develops an ominous cough twenty minutes in – the sheer obviousness of the plot is thrown in the face of the audience with all the subtlety of a flyer handout on the Royal Mile.
Despite all of this, I must admit I was charmed. For the same reason that millions tune into Glee, and with the same spirit and irrepressible peppiness that spawned an army of High School Musical brats, sometimes people just want escapism. At the Fringe there is more than enough dark, edgy material around, enough dead babies to depopulate China and enough hypodermic needles to deflate a bouncy castle. So sometimes it’s plain soothing to be lulled away by gentle folk-pop music to a world of cosmetic dentistry, where trios of American girls-next-door sing ‘We live in a crater wah-ah-ahh’.
Yes – the white picket fence is dismantled, the wah-ah-ahh girls are justly ridiculed by the ‘rebel’ kids of Radiation Springs, who are obviously the renegades because they wear leather jackets and jeans and have piercings. Duh. They also occasionally drop the f-bomb just to reiterate that they are bad-asses. Go see 1,000 Suns for an enjoyable evening of teenage Yank angst, just remember to brush your teeth after.