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Fringe reviews: Musicals

The Factory

ENTHRALLED: The ladies of the book group follow the exciting relationship of Anastasia and Christian in 50 Shades! The Musical - The Original Parody, which is headed for Off-Broadway.
ENTHRALLED: The ladies of the book group follow the exciting relationship of Anastasia and Christian in 50 Shades! The Musical - The Original Parody, which is headed for Off-Broadway.

The Factory

Assembly Hall

* * *

IF you hanker after Scottish political musical theatre of the 1980s, and many do, get yourself along to the popular musical that the NZ at Edinburgh programme from New Zealand has brought across the world.

There is something redolent of Wildcat in it's heyday about this production by the oddly-named Kila Kokonut Krew, whose initials and hiphop moniker suggest something rather more in-your-face.

Because The Factory, for all its political tub-thumping, is really a very gentle show, in which the plot developments are visible all the way to Fife.

Bereaved factory owner Richard Wilkinson (Paul Glover) is all for profit, after the loss of the humanising influence of his wife, and the people who suffer are his Samoan and Maori workers.

When motherless son and heir Edward (Ryan Bennett) falls for new girl Losa (Milly Grant), the path of true love will never be smooth, but a happy ending is never in doubt.

The joy of the piece is in the singing, with the chorus of factory girls blending in rich harmony on a score that improves as the show progresses, with What Do You Have? and Strong and Believe looking less towards old Western models from Porgy and Bess to Grease.

Until August 25

50 Shades! The Musical - The Original Parody

Assembly Hall

* * *

THE somewhat clunky title hides a deal of back and forth between lawyers, I'll wager, but E L James must have learned to live with this vulgar flirtation with her oeuvre because it first played the Fringe in 2012, before an Off-Broadway run.

The premise is of a group of women who bring the story of Anastasia and Christian and their sex and bondage relationship to life at their book group. If you haven't read the book(s), some of the jokes will go flying over your head, but the hen parties around you will let you know when to laugh.

Created by a cast of many, including Amanda Blake Davis, once of Chicago's Second City troupe, it is the performance of the ingenue (Ashley Ward) and the millionaire (Chris Grace, hilariously miscast) that make the show. The music isn't bad either, plundering the heritage of musical theatre past and present with some style.

But it is the predictably broad gags that make the night, rather than the double entendre tenderness (comparatively speaking) of big number There's A Hole Inside Of Me.

Played with gusto, the cast of 50 Shades! put Frankie Howerd and Dick Emery in the shade with their insatiable lust for a rude laugh.

Until August 25

Siddhartha, The Musical

Assembly Rooms

* * * *

THE back story (as told by Neil Cooper in The Herald at the start of the Fringe) is worth telling, but faced with the end-result it becomes utterly baffling.

Developed with prisoners in a high security Milan prison, this adaptation of Herman Hesse by Isabella Biffi is so camp it is as if the graduates of Barlinnie Special Unit had produced the work of Jeff Koons.

His propagandist song and dance-fest for Buddhist values is doubtless sincerely meant, however it features more costume changes than anything I have ever previously seen on the Fringe.

It also contains a chorus line of barely-clad buff lads and lithe ladies that must bear little resemblance to its original incarnation.

Because of the limitations of the stage in the Music Hall, all of the choreography had to be squeezed into an area that variety theatre would have referred to as "in front of the cloth", so occasionally the company spill off into the auditorium, when the work that has gone into the sumptuous garments becomes even more apparent.

The cast are very good indeed though, both vocally, and especially in their movement, and music, while showing a popular fondness for 80s disco, also embraces a bizarre nod to Fiddler on the Roof at one point.

Bonkers, but ultimately great fun.

Until August 24

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