Napier University Drama Society presents a musical retelling of the Trojan War as their offering to the gods this festival. Sort of. The war itself is largely brushed over and instead we are treated to a hefty preamble. What results is more a rather stodgy mixture of moments than a cohesive production.
There is a certain charm about Horseplay, but it’s not enough to earn a recommendation.
It must be said that some of these moments are actually pretty decent. Georgia Rose Moran as Calchas puts in an excellent number in a wild evangelical style. David Fraser’s Priam takes every moment he can to make the audience giggle with silly voices and largely succeeds, whilst Cora McGookin as Hecuba is woefully underused as she shows excellent comic potential in her limited role. Lisa Aref as Eris, Goddess of Discord is fun during her brief appearance and the Spartan song about war isn’t bad either. It is Cassandra’s song about Greeks bearing gifts that is probably the best song written for the libretto. Excellently delivered by Meg McAuley, its recital almost makes you forget about what has come before.
Except you can’t. After an opening number that sounds like it had the potential to be decent if most of the words weren’t inaudible, the show seems to forget that it’s a musical for quarter of an hour. Straight drama is not this production’s strong-point and we’re treated to a fair bit of exposition. When the music initially returns, there are mixed results. After being relatively light-hearted, it tries to make us care seriously about Paris and Helen’s relationship with a ‘heart-felt’ number, but it doesn’t really work and it’s mainly just a bit awkward.
Frequent blackouts for every scene change kill the pacing and feel messy. Homer, played by Samuel Hogarth who to his credit does fairly well at holding the show together, is made to be blind; perhaps as a wink to classical tradition. But for the show, it is because this makes him Blind Homer. He walks into things. That is the joke and it lasts just over an hour. It’s also not evident why the cast is as large as it is. It could have been half the size and not suffered in the slightest. The quality of acting and singing can vary quite drastically from cast member to cast member, and the libretto itself doesn’t really help them out. Some of the songs feel like somebody had Rhyming Dictionary open in a tab in the background whilst the writing process happened. A fair few of the jokes are either delivered badly or were just bad to begin with.
There is a certain charm about Horseplay, but it’s not enough to earn a recommendation. The good moments just don’t outweigh the bad. Ultimately, this Horseplay has gone far enough.