5⭐ · Fringe Reviews 2017 · Reviews · Theatre Reviews

REVIEW: ‘Cashmere’ by October Boy Productions.

5 Stars

I had to run to make this show. And even then I missed the first minute or so due to a slow-moving queue. I was ushered into the theatre in the middle of what I could tell was a gorgeous opening number, and I was sold from there. I’d been a little worried that maybe this new musical wouldn’t live up to the legacy of its predecessor, Scarlett Lanebut I had nothing to worry about.

Every single aspect of this show is given ONE. HUNDRED. PERCENT.

The musical combination of Adam Westley and Alex Vass has once again produced a beautiful, inventive, and versatile score that fits perfect with the script it accompanies. Westley, and Vass have a ridiculous talent for music and, when they work in tandem, they are an unstoppable musical force. Their songs are once again stuck in my head, and will be for a while. Just as with Scarlett, I have no complaints. The live band all do a stellar job and the use of synthesisers, manned by Calum Macgregor, is a particularly beautiful choice thematically.

The Choreography too, largely I believe the responsibility of Isobel Taylor Herbert, is really something to behold. Of the original musicals I’ve seen this year, Cashmere has, by miles, the best choreography. It’s precise, artful, visually stunning, and perfectly synced. This musical goes so damn hard with it’s choreography and it pays off immeasurably well.

Westley and Sophie Roberts’s script is insightful, original, and the best kind of creepy. The whole thing has the feel of a musical Black Mirror episode in its tone and subject matter; it makes intelligent speculative social commentary in an often disturbing manner. What the show has to say about image obsession, and the dangers thereof, really hits home. The compelling characters are relatable, perplexing, or disturbing wherever they need to be, and the dialogue and plot maintain a constant uneasiness that keeps the  audience on edge right until the conclusion.

Every member of the cast appears to be a sickeningly talented vocalist. Emma Hooker (Alys) sings with power and pain in equal weight,  India Plummer manages to match her in pure emotive vocal force (Aiva), Will Thompson-Brant (Harrison) is able to convey a moving vulnerability with the tone and timbre of his voice, and Paige Peddie (Max) can command the attention of a room by singing a single note (or frankly just by walking silently across a stage). An additional specific mention needs to go to Alannah Marchewka (Gracie) whose rich and layered voice caused me to sit up in my chair out of slight astonishment when the time came for her to properly show it off. I saw a musical in this space before where most of the cast could not be heard above the instruments. There was no such problem here.

While this musical is quite different in many ways from it’s predecessor, there’s much about it that reminds me of Scarlett Lane. There are musical motifs and moments that I recognise from that production, and aspects of the choreography seem familiar too, which makes sense seeing as Callum Holt returned as an Assistant Choreographer for this production. This is not to say in anyway that Cashmere is derivative of October Boy’s previous work. There is more than enough originality in the music, the choreography, and elsewhere to mark out Cashmere as very much its own show and own entity. What it does demonstrate is a consistency in style for this company that makes their work recognisable and unique to them. That’s not an easy thing to achieve and they should take pride in it.

Once again, my only small issue with the pacing. October Boy have once again produced a piece filled with such potential as a music that it could easily fill two hours or more and I feel one is somehow not enough.  I’d happily watch a two hour version. Several times. The move to the conclusion is a little bit rushed, but that conclusion is so powerful in delivery that I’m inclined to overlook. I’m content with a one hour version for now.

I’ve been waiting for October Boy to produce a new musical ever since I first saw Scarlett Lane two years ago. I can safely say that, with Cashmere, I’ve been well rewarded from my patience. I only hope that, this time, a soundtrack actually does surface somewhere.



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