wed 19/06/2024

Edinburgh Fringe 2023 reviews: Flat & the Curves / Shamilton! / I Wish My Life Were Like a Musical | reviews, news & interviews

Edinburgh Fringe 2023 reviews: Flat & the Curves / Shamilton! / I Wish My Life Were Like a Musical

Edinburgh Fringe 2023 reviews: Flat & the Curves / Shamilton! / I Wish My Life Were Like a Musical

Women in tune, musical improv, and a backstage story

The foursome sing about what it's like to be a womanKarla Gowlett

Flat & the Curves, Pleasance Dome 

Flat & the Curves – Katy Baker, Charlotte Brooke, Issy Wroe Wright and Arabella Rodrigo – perform a gig-style musical comedy show with risqué material about what it means to be a modern woman. And there's a generous side helping about the inadequacy of men, too.

The songs in Divadom feature an impressive range of musical styles and pastiche – from 90s girl groups, jazz cabaret and even light opera – as the foursome sing their anthems to womanhood, either to backing tracks or with keyboard accompaniment by Brooke. The lyrics are wonderfully rude, referencing pornography and masturbation, alcohol-driven hen nights (a tour de force), the drunken solidarity of women in loos and the modern dating game. Their hymn to the power of the vagina is a showstopper.

The wordplay is clever and can be stinging about some tendencies of the male of the species; singing about men who regress to childhood the minute they visit their mums, they sing: “Take your lips /off the nips/ of your mother's breasts”.

The women all have big West End musical voices and harmonise beautifully, but each gets her moment in the spotlight. It's great fun.

Shamilton! The Improvised Hip Hop Musical, Assembly George Square 

Performers have to be on their toes for any kind of improv, and the five here (from the Baby Wants Candy troupe) certainly are. The show is inspired by Lin Manuel Miranda’s biographical musical Hamilton, but here the audience is asked to suggest a person whose life story they would like to hear in improvised musical form.

Some of the suggestions were discounted because they had already been done during the run – Taylor Swift, for example; others because it’s not fair to expect American performers to be au fait with the nitty-gritty of Scottish politics (Nicola Sturgeon). So they went with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and it was a hoot.

To musical accompaniment from an onstage drummer and keyboard player, the fivesome told Johnson’s imagined story, from his early years in wrestling, his ambitions to be taken seriously as an actor, his beef with fellow tough guy Vin Diesel, and his burgeoning bromance with comic Kevin Hart.

Inevitably, some jokes fell flat but at these points another cast member would steer the story down another path (the Hart element was increasingly mad). But the talent of the artists never falters and produces a lot of big laughs.

I Wish My Life Were Like a Musical, Gilded Balloon @Museum 

If you need an uplifting Fringe experience, Alexander S Bermange’s affectionate behind-the-scenes musical will do nicely. Four performers – Jennifer Caldwell, Sev Keoshgerian, Rhidian Marc and Julie Yammanee – tell the story through songs; think of it as like A Chorus Line but with added jokes.

The snappy numbers, full of wit and musical pastiche, tell every aspect of a performer’s life – graduating from drama school, casting calls, being an understudy and wanting a moment in the spotlight. There is even one that pokes gentle fun at annoying audiences, munching their way through noisy sweets, coming in late and joining in tunelessly with the songs.

Most of the numbers are ensembles or duets, but each cast member has their moment to shine in a solo; Keoshgerian as a hypochondriac chorus singer; Yammanee belts it out as a Florence Foster Jenkins-like singer; Caldwell explores her inner diva; and Marc is a nervous performer at an industry showcase.

There are lots of delicious in-jokes but the songs work on their own merits. The performers are tip-top, Bermange is on keyboards and, directed at a lick by Matthew Parker, it’s a Fringe treat.

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