To be fair, the programme and the press release had provided an Artistic Health Warning which pointed out that the 5633 Theatre Company accepted no responsibility for complete loss of faith in musical theatre resulting in attendance at their performance of The Bonnet Blue. Unfortunately their quip was intended to refer to the first few minutes of their show, not the entire hour, but they where hostages to fortune, as what developed on stage was jaw-droppingly awful.
The premise of the show was that The Bridgend Musical Society are rehearsing a musical and it is not going well until one of the cast finds a dusty manuscript called The Bonnet Blue and they decide to do that instead. The Bonnet Blue appears to be something about Scottish history and pride, but it's pretty badly drawn to make much sense of it. There are programme notes describing brave choices and life-affirming stuff, although I didn't see an awful lot of evidence of that in the performance.
As reviewers, we tend to judge amateur groups on different criterion than the professional theatre companies in town; you can accept a little shaky acting or unsure delivery provided it's done with enthusiasm and it's entertaining. But in comparison with other amateur shows that have presented their work in Edinburgh, The Bonnet Blue is just a Village Hall production.
The Studio space at Augustine's is wide, but the centre of the stage is difficult to work around due to a pillar directly in front, and the fact it is significantly shallower than the left and right. So what you don't do is create an arch of chairs in the middle, effectively cutting out 75% of the stage, and deliver most of the show in the three feet available behind the pillar. But that is exactly what 5633 Theatre Company did.
Some scenes where unintentionally farcical. At one stage Nancy kept asking Is Peter not coming?, and rather than being off-stage, Peter was staging stage-left. I wanted to shout, He's over there! Shortly after, Jennifer asked Does anyone know what we're doing?, I resisted the temptation to reply No.
All the musical numbers were delivered to a backing track, which was piped in at an unbelievable volume. This meant you couldn't hear much of the vocals on stage, and the poor old lady in the row in front of me spent most of the show with her fingers in her ears. In retrospect she had the right idea.
Their plot, being based around rehearsals for a musical, allowed them to spend much of their time reading their dialog and lyrics directly from their scripts, but this meant their performances were wooden and delivered straight into a sheet of paper. Unfortunately when they did do scenes off the book, they then forgot lines or cut across each other.
By the end of the show, any semblance of a plot is abandoned and replaced with a string of musical numbers and jingoistic flag waving. The old lady's ears were bleeding and I had my fist in my mouth wondering whether the original musical that the Bridgend Musical Society had rejected might have been a better option afterall.