Picture this: a musical based on the women of the Manson Family set to the music of Fleetwood Mac. Have I caught your interest?
A very unique concept well executed, with a soundtrack to die (or kill) for
X:1969 follows Linda as she gives trial evidence about her association with the Manson Family. She describes how she was drawn to the group of women who followed Manson, treating him like a saviour and prophet. They act like a sisterhood who are trying to make a better world for themselves, but are quick to turn on each other in service of their manipulative male leader.
Despite the unusual premise, the reworkings of Fleetwood Mac songs do an incredible job of reinforcing the underlying tension of this supposedly free and happy community. The Chain is the central theme song, reappearing throughout the show, while other tunes are woven into the narrative and sometimes combined with each other in a creative mash-up. Towards the end, the arrangement of Landslide, first as an eerie solo and then later as a warm and loving duet, is used in a very clever way to contrast the reactions of different characters to the same situation.
Throughout the story we never see Manson, or any other male characters, but hear their words through the voices of the women on stage. The women are fascinating – both as characters and actors – with Sadie being particularly well played as a young woman who manages to be both childlike and sensual, with a strange vulnerability and dark edge running beneath the surface. Vocals are incredibly strong throughout, with a special shoutout to Mother Mary for the control and passion behind her big belting moments. But really, the star of the show is the harmonies. Almost every song has some choir-like aspect, and the performers are well up to the challenge. Multiple moments sent shivers up my spine and if they had released an album I would be listening to it right now.
The story itself is a tight fit within the hour-long festival programme. Produced by Neon Diamond Theatre Ltd, and originally developed as part of the MA Musical Theatre programme at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, the plot struggles to give each of its six female leads a chance to tell their story, sing numerous stunning group numbers, and still effectively build up momentum for the dramatic conclusion. Considering the time limitations, the creative team did an impressive job of trying to condense it, but the show could really benefit from the usual two-hour musical format.
Overall, a very unique concept well executed – with a soundtrack to die (or kill) for.