Whilst it may be apt to stage John Montgomery and Derek Batchelor’s Flesh - a musical about Burke and Hare - at Surgeon’s Hall, the novelty stops there. A clumsy musical that still has teething problems, the show definitely feels longer than the hour and thirty five minutes that it runs.

Has teething problems

Sometimes a non-linear structure works; starting at the end and then jumping to the beginning can produce some dramatic effect and tension. In this musical’s case, it just introduces the fact that the scenes drag and the dialogue is broken up with the occasional modern reference, that more often than not falls flat. We are introduced to Burke (Jeremy Fraser) and Hare (Roddy MacLeod) at the end of their career as they toast to starting a new life in America, before Burke is arrested for murder. We then flash-back to the start of their body-selling days as Dr Robert Knox (Frank Burr) offers to pay the pair for every body they find, no questions asked. Meanwhile two aspiring journalists - Annie Gray (Katie Laird) and Thomas Ireland (James Cumming) - try to find the scoop on Burke and Hare’s activities, creating an underdeveloped and forced romantic subplot that this show most definitely does not need.

The cast seems ill-prepared to be on the Fringe. Between noticeably early lighting cues, an odd recording from the director about the amount of newspapers named by Laird and Cumming and the fact that some of the chorus look like they don’t know what they are doing and don’t want to be there, everything just appears half-hearted, as if everyone involved could not care less. With Scots/Irish accents that drop into American as soon as the cast starts singing, the lack of care taken by the creative team is noticeable. Despite all of this, the songs themselves are pretty decent, and in all honesty, a concert-version of this show would have been a lot more enjoyable. Chorus numbers such as Sailing to America and Whisky’s the Bait are fun to watch, but these moments are few and far between. The instrumental song Murder is definitely the best-staged part of the entire production, and makes large portions of previous scenes obsolete.

Flesh misses the ‘it’s so bad, it’s good’ nature of some Fringe shows and heads right into ‘it’s just bad’ territory. A discount Jekyll and Hyde, Flesh is a mutilation of the story of Burke and Hare. I for one will be happy to see this musical confined to the ash heap of musical and Edinburgh history.

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Reviews by Katerina Partolina Schwartz

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The Blurb

The premiere of a fast, furious and funny rock musical that takes a wry take on the story of Burke and Hare – Irish navvies induced by the Edinburgh medical elite to turn their hands to murdering for profit. A high quality, humorous musical theatre extravaganza. Folk rock with Celtic overtones. Music, drama, comedy, dance and theatre all in one! Who would be daft enough to put on a musical about serial killers at the Fringe? That would be us! Get a taster at www.fleshthemusical.com

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