The Deacon

Edinburgh is a beautiful city, with its ancient monuments, imposing churches and symmetrical townhouses. I got to see most of it on the long walk to Stockbridge Parish Church. Though it took me far from the heart of the Fringe, the journey only added to the intense Scottish-ness of Peter D Robinson’s new musical based on the life and times of Deacon Brodie, one of Edinburgh’s best-loved historical villains.Brodie lived a double life: respectable by day, dastardly by night. His outlook was allegedly inspired by that of MacHeath from the Beggar’s Opera, and in turn inspired Robert Louis Stevenson’s Jekyll/Hyde duality of man. This musical pays homage to these double-men in its mode of exposition. An innkeeper tells Brodie’s tale, and slowly the tavern-dwellers get sucked into the narrative. As they act out the story, their own lives and the lives of their roles become blurred and intertwined.As the only company in this venue (other than the Church of Scotland…), Carpe Diem Productions have made the most of their artistic freedom. They fill their huge stage with probably the largest cast you’ll see in Edinburgh outside of the Tattoo. Quite often the ensemble are just milling in the background, it seems they have been used primarily for set-dressing.The high production values evident in the gorgeous costumes and mesmerising lighting were let down by fluffiness in the songs. Far too many inane ballads dragged the show to a limp in the second half, mixed metaphors in the lyrics were confusing, and the over-all lack of rhyming was jarring rather than classy.Some useful performances were led by the charming Innkeeper and his long-suffering wife, played by Duncan and Linda Robertson. Brodie’s trio of thieves had the best voices and well-developed individual characters, which is more than can be said of most in this production. I felt that the romantic leads were decidedly lacklustre. Ignoring their age difference, their voices did not work well together (his a faux-opera tenor and hers more naturally folky), and they had absolutely no sexual tension.The Deacon is a nationalist work. From the bagpipe background music as you enter the church, to the Scottish folk song performed as-is, to the sung Burns poem (what did he have to do with anything?!), to the performers’ heavy accents, this musical reeks of Auld Reekie. Which is a good thing – until you find yourself two hours in to a show without an interval and you’d do anything to avoid another folky ballad.

Reviews by James Robert Ball

Leicester Square Theatre

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The Blurb

Nominated for MTM:UK best composer 2007, Peter D Robinson's new musical brings the notorious Deacon Brodie to life. Stevenson's inspiration for Jekyll and Hyde walks Edinburgh streets again with Carpe Diem's usual mix of powerful music and drama.