2⭐ · Fringe Reviews 2017 · Reviews · Theatre Reviews

REVIEW: ‘Communism: The Musical!’ by Lancaster Offshoots

2 Stars

Communism: The Musical has a disclaimer at the end of the description on its flyers that reads “May not contain actual communism”. That’s all well and good but, the trouble is, it has very little to do with anything else either. I understand that the general point of the show is that it is irreverent, over-the-top, and highly meta but still, the lack of a coherent central point is a real detriment to this production.

It starts with a certain degree of promise, the first song is decent and enjoyable enough that I believed this might be fun little production with some catchy music and an appropriate degree of easy-going satire. Unfortunately, the situation rapidly deteriorates from there. The plot spirals into a void of unengaging nonsense, pulled down all the faster by the mostly bland songs and a fairly dreadful script.

The protagonist, Karl, played by Ewen Roberts, feels unappealing in and unsuited to a leading role. Other than some admitted skill with physicality and amusing facial expressions, Roberts brings little to the table in terms of performance. Katherine Dodds and Josh Utting as his co-stars, Emily and Max, display much more acting and singing ability. Utting in particular outshines both the other two and seems far more natural, relaxed, and talented as a performer. Dodds needs to do a little more in terms of projection, diction, and voice-control but has a good deal of potential.

The show, or at least the few parts of it than can be salvaged, is stolen by Jamie Lonsdale and Abi Beaven as The Broker and Hot Dog Guy, whose comic-timing and natural chemistry provide some much-needed relief from the show’s general mediocre mundanity. While a lot of the meta-humour is a bit tiresome, they deliver theirs with enough casualness and understated tone that it works and is rather enjoyable.

The script is the main issue of this show. Even though the cast are of highly varied levels of ability, I feel that with a better script they could have produced something really memorable and commendable. As it is, they have to work with fairly lacklustre dialogue, awkward pacing, and an misguided attempt to invert and satirise cliches that only ends up being overly reliant on them. If it’s not actually going to have anything to do with Communism then it needs to have a least a little to do with something. Instead we just have an uninteresting quest to achieve something unclear that eventually gives way to a tired romance plot that would be more believable if the actors had an modicum of palpable chemistry.

I felt very let down by Communism: The Musical but see potential for these performers in the future, if and when they have better material to work with.

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