Saturday 16 August 2014

Edinburgh Fringe 2014 – The Factory at Assembly, or, The New Musical's Problems Have Reached New Zealand

Note: This is a review of the performance on Thursday 14th August 2014.

This is a sadly disappointing show and it is not surprising that the Main Hall at Assembly was fairly empty for this performance. I cannot think word of mouth can be doing much for it despite the commitment of everybody on stage.

The basic fatal flaw is the show itself which is undistinguished to poor in every particular apart from the basic subject matter. This is noble – an apparently largely forgotten story of Pacific island immigrants coming to New Zealand to work exploited in factories. The intention to bring this to wider notice is an admirable one, unfortunately the writers are not up to the job. The music is derivative (the villain's strange resemblance to Fagin is particularly bizarre) and forgettable. The lyrics are too often indeciferable (despite the miking). The worst part of it is the book which made me want to cringe. A whole range of stock characters are present, young lovers, tyranical parents, a camp cross-dressing relative all of them played with a deadly seriousness of tone which coupled with excessive over-emphatic gesturing does little to help the script's believability problems. Musical performances are also uneven, the sometimes excessive miking exposes some vocal flaws and some of the lead soprano's tuning at the top of her range was suspect. As already noted the performers do give this everything, but mere energy is not enough to save it.

Londoners worrying about the health of the new musical may console themselves that, on this showing, things are worse in New Zealand. Honest reporting does however compell me to note that quite a few of the audience bafflingly rose to their feet at the curtain call. I'd like to think they were as desperate as I was to get out. One to avoid.

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