Emerald Diaries

The Fringe Festival will always be best used as a place for experimentation and experience building, both for performers and for audiences. You may, as a spectator, take a dip in the wild, deep waters of physical theatre or dance and see if they appeal. Perhaps, as a performer, you may try your hand at an alternative discipline, actor to poet, dancer to playwright. Kingdom theatre company have used a healthy dose of experimentation in their latest show, Emerald Diaries, a show that blends Irish Dance with song and story.

This piece needs a little heart though, and a little more attention to building an on stage relationship we can really believe in.

Andrew (Juan Casado y Barton, himself experimenting in his first theatrical leading role), uses his leave from the navy to finally meet Mary (Aileen Goldie), with whom he has been conducting an (ultra modern) relationship with via text. Attempting to rendezvous with Mary, Andrew is drawn into her dance class by the comic dance instructor Aggie Dooley (Jacqueline Hannan). Roped into the dancers’ scheduled competition after showing his vocal skills, Andrew tries to make Mary fall for him, all while the threat of his curfew to return to his ship hangs over their budding relationship.

As with any show that attempts to blend multiple forms, some things work, while others do not. In the list of the former must go the inclusion of Irish Dance group, the Siamsoir Irish Dance Academy. Their three choreographed set pieces are entertaining to watch, especially the heavier number sandwiched between the more traditional pieces. The company also do a solid job of performing as background ensemble cast.

The same cannot be said for the overall acted dialogue. Casado y Barton is a trained dancer but doesn't quite convincingly make the transition from dancing to acting. He isn't terrible, but with a love story the only real focus of the piece, strong characterisation and scriptwork are essential. With these left by the wayside, the love between Andrew and Mary never quite comes to life. The inclusion of Hannan, an experienced actress, and a well worked monologue performed by her only draws attention to the fact that the other performers lack acting experience.

Additionally, the show is unhelpfully categorized as a musical. The inclusion of two songs does not a musical make, though they are performed with a refreshing roughness that belies the often over-polished musical style.

There is comedy here, and the seeds of something, the influence of recent successes like Sunshine on Leith creating a love story that makes you smile. This piece needs a little heart though, and a little more attention to building an on stage relationship we can really believe in. Perhaps then this new experiment will pay off.

Reviews by Andrew Forbes

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The Blurb

It's audition night in Leith for the local Irish dance troupe, but surely this young lad is not a dancer? Maybe he can sing, or is he just on a date with one of the girls? Anyway, there are dances to rehearse before a gala performance and already the instructor is stressed with her girls – what could possibly go wrong? This new musical premiere has live Irish dance, comedy, Scottish songs and a love story produced in association with Scotland’s award-winning Siamsoir Irish performance dancers, with specially composed music and toe tapping standards to savour.

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