An easy show to recommend to lovers of Gilbert and Sullivan.
The convoluted plot follows two theatre companies at the Fringe dealing with strange flat leases, forbidden love, incompetent reviewers, parental expectations, foundling children and terrible magic shows. It is all very good fun; witty and self-referential in exactly the right way. The companies get hold of a magical lozenge that makes bad shows seem like great shows. There are mix-ups and love troubles galore, and everything is resolved in a single song. In a charming, but underused device, Gilbert and Sullivan themselves (played by Norman Hockley and Chris Higgins) frame the show, Gilbert pitching the show to a sceptical Sullivan, and both then providing vocal support for the duration.
Fair warning, many of the jokes will be lost on those not familiar with Gilbert and Sullivan. The show relied heavily on the comic subversion of well-known tunes through banal lyrics about the less glamorous elements of the Fringe. Unfortunately, tuning was a major issue throughout. Elizabeth Fenner and Daniel Grooms were the show’s redeemers, vocally very strong and with top-notch characterisation. Opening the show as a comedy duo of scene-changers with a harebrained flat-letting scheme, they continued to delight in each of their roles. Piano accompaniment from Becky Norton was similarly flawless. Unfortunately, this served to highlight the weakness of other cast members, who just weren’t up to scratch.
Performed with a large ensemble and chorus, The Fringe Lozenge has the potential to be a fantastic show. In its current format, it is still very enjoyable, but the absence of the traditional G&S maximalist aesthetic was noticeable. Simply put, it needed proper large-scale operetta staging to do it justice. Nevertheless, it is an easy show to recommend to lovers of Gilbert and Sullivan.