The term ‘award-winning’ has long since been rendered meaningless, devalued by anyone who ever unlocked a Steam gaming achievement appending it to their LinkedIn profile. Thus, just as the plaudits printed on Fringe fliers should be taken with a large pinch of sodium, a musical cabaret devised by an ‘award-winning writer’ should not in itself be cause for celebration. For the next three weeks, award-winning writers will be more plentiful than the rain in Edinburgh, for this is a city awash with talent – even if its productions don’t always live up to the hyperbole.
Written and acted by Mitch Féral, Street Cries is loosely based on Dylan Thomas’ Under Milk Wood. Instead of a quaint Welsh fishing village, the action unfolds in a semi-fictionalised London in the present day. With the venue still lit and the audience still getting comfy, the show starts abruptly when the cast take to the stage and unceremoniously launch into their first song. There is no fanfare and no introduction: Street Cries simply begins.
Intelligently acted and sweetly sung, Street Cries is a paean to broken Britain, a celebration of the vacuous and the visceral. It’s bleak, it’s sardonic, and it’s sharper than a box of discarded syringes. Harshly lit, and with little by way of props, the musical opens in a marketplace with our Cockney duo hawking everything from cocaine to sexual services.
Financiers, hoodies, Chelsea girls and war veterans are vividly brought to life by Mitch Féral and Kelly Craig, while a polka duo play merrily from the side of the stage, seemingly as rapt as the rest of us.
When the last of the Olympians has left town, the real Great Britain comes out to play, complete with ‘insecurity guards and uncivil servants’, vajazzles, debt, domestic violence and one-week love affairs. Street Cries depicts a nation in which every town centre looks the same. It depicts high-rises where the lifts have been broken for so long that even the Out of Order signs are out of order. This musical doesn’t so much boast a script as a collection of urban hymns, each one as beautiful as its subject matter is ugly.
While grander production values – including more sympathetic lighting and some semblance of a stage set – wouldn’t go amiss, don’t let that deter you: Street Cries is an unassuming musical that proves to be an unexpected delight. If only all award-winners were as good as Mitch Féral.