Cameron Mackintosh Award winning company, ‘The Hungry Bitches’ return to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe with their latest offering, ‘Americana’.
Clumsy and poorly constructed, the second half is in complete dichotomy from the outrageous, caricatured and shamelessly over the top hyper-real portrayal of life in the American South that the audience was thrown into for the first half.
This new musical interrogates America from an outsiders perspective. The backdrop of white picket fences and sweeter than cherry-pie values are soon forgone in favour of a grunged-up, overtly sexualised portrayal of life in an American high school. Set somewhere in the deep south (sporting widely varying twangs), Americana is a star-crossed gay-love story of two boys, jock Brody Benson and burn-head David, as they decide ‘to raise a middle finger to what’s ugly’ and fight back against the bible-bashing homophobes that populate their town.
For an original musical, Americana boasts some very impressive and memorable numbers. The sheer enthusiasm and dedication to character to all involved is incredibly admirable. Laurence Schuman’s voice has a truly enchanting and unique quality, outstanding in its lyricism and sheer musicality. His characterisation of David, the burn-head stoner is full of quirky and delightful nuances. Olly McCauley as ousted football star Brody Benson, gives an admirable performance to a character lacking in depth and complexity. As stand-alone performances both are, for the most part, convincing. However the relationship between the two seems entirely forced and fabricated.
Filled with familiar tropes such as the cheerleader, jock and stoner kid, the audience can’t help but feel we’ve already seen every interesting spin on these characters. If you are regurgitating these already tired stereotypes, you must proceed with the intention of bringing something new to the floor. Sadly Americana, a land of one-dimensional characters, completely falls short of this.
Clumsy and poorly constructed, the second half is in complete dichotomy from the outrageous, caricatured and shamelessly over the top hyper-real portrayal of life in the American South that the audience was thrown into for the first half. Beginning in a blaze of vulgarity, placards emblazoned with ‘God Hates the Hungry Bitches’ are shamelessly brandished around the performance space accompanied by what can only be described as an all-singing-all-dancing reenactment of The Human Centipede. This level of shock, however, is not sustained. The real issue with the second act is that instead of maintaining the outrageous, yet undeniably fun ambition of the first half, the production problematically switches to a sentimental story arc that it had previously fought to satirise.
The inclusion of guns as a device for plot development is equally troublesome. The descent of Brody’s ex-girlfriend turned prom campaign manager from Harvard University Prospective to a gun-brandishing, spree-killing young woman seems incredibly far-fetched and troubling. It appeared that ‘The Hungry Bitches’ had run out of ideas and used the guns as a means to a quickly resolved end which was unsatisfying.