Sondheim’s fast-paced lyrics are hard to perform well, even for an experienced Broadway star, and it is rare that I have seen an amateur production that manages to do him justice.
A bad Scottish accent, an unexplained character in full Mel Gibson Braveheart outfit and some dodgy kilts left the Edinburgh audience a little cold.
However, this was the show that they did perform, and it is unquestionable that both direction and performance were lacking something. Without exception, the singing fell a little flat – the actor who played Pseudolos, the central character, while investing an energy into his role that some other performers lacked, had clearly been given a vocal role that was out of his range. He did shine as a talented actor, keeping up well with the nuances of the spoken dialogue, but many of his fellow actors overdid the hysterical farcical performances in a way that hindered rather than helped the comedy.
The choice to relocate the story from Ancient Rome to Scotland was also a little misjudged. A bad Scottish accent, an unexplained character in full Mel Gibson Braveheart outfit and some dodgy kilts left the Edinburgh audience a little cold. The concept of the Scottish performers putting on an Ancient Roman play, while allowing for some nicely-done pieces of self-referential humour, mainly just served to add another layer of complexity to a plot the actors were already struggling to keep up with.
The show’s best moments came when the whole ensemble was utilised. Keeping the whole cast on stage the whole time allowed for some well-timed synchronised reactions and movements. Singers who struggled in solos came together in harmonies in the group numbers rather beautifully. However, these moments were too few and far between and overall the show needed to be tighter to live up to the high expectations set by students from all over the world at the Fringe every summer.