Often, the expectation brought to mind by the genre “Musical” means that successfully producing a new and original one at the Fringe Festival is no mean feat. Several enduringly popular musicals are performed on a huge scale, with large casts and spaces providing the exciting all singing, all dancing, electric atmosphere that make the musical experience so unique. It is easy to forget that the musical style can have real impact on a small scale, if done in an intelligent, skillful way. The Argosy Theatre Company have shown, with their sensitive and well worked show
An excellent example of an exciting, original musical. Go and let yourself in.
The narrative focuses, unsurprisingly, on the home of the influential and renowned 19th century American author Edgar Allan Poe. Our action occurs after the death of Poe, as the executor and inheritor of his estate Rufus Griswold sorts through Poe’s texts and takes possession of the house’s keys. The smug, facetious Griswold (Eoin McAndrew, wonderfully dislikable in the role) criticises and laughs at his onetime friends work, dismissing it as trash, but his obvious jealousy and disrespect set in motion a series of mysterious and from our viewpoint, compelling, sequence of events.
This musical has committed well to theme and aesthetic. It is dark, romantic and deeply poetic like Poe’s most famous works, many of which feature as songs. The original music that accompanies them hits that special sweet spot between memorable and moving. Composer and writer Thomas F. Arnold has created tight, contrasting melodies with complex, busy chord changes and harmonies. Again, the small number of musicians, at a mere three, is a refreshing reminder that is is possible to create wonderful accompanying sound without a full orchestra. The company does well to showcase the singing talents of several members, with the performances of The Raven and The Tell Tale Heart particular highlights both within themselves and for showing the company's skill at creating contrasting sounds and emotion. One evokes Poe’s sorrow and longing; the other his fascination with madness and death.
It is Poe’s ultimate sadness and grief that is the central focus of the piece, which serves as a passionate defence of his work. Well acted by a talented cast, who are directed by Beth Cowley, it also avoids the classic musical pothole of paying too little attention to acted scenes in favour of rushing to the next song. It does well to examine self-doubt, depression and the hope and comfort of eternal love in a truly moving way. Admittedly some group movement and dance sections don't quite come off as planned, inhibited in no small part by the size of the space, but overall The House Of Edgar is an excellent example of an exciting, original musical. Go and let yourself in.