Caught between the seconds of time, straddled between dreams and moving as a mist between this world and the next is a beautiful and sublime place called Beulah. Manned by proud lions, elegant queens and little boys with swords, Beulah is a fantasy from the childhood days still floating around in our memory.
Inspired by the musings of William Blake, The Flanagan Collective’s new folk musical is an exquisite and understated exploration of all that Beulah does and can mean us. This poetic voyage of discovery begins from the carefully calculated statistic that we spend 23.3 years in the land of nod in the average life span of 80 years. This means that a young lifetime is in fact passed in a landscape and narrative completely separate to our conscious life – a place where The Flanagan Collective believe the most charmingly warm moments of existence are found. Here, generations collide and loves are made real, time is shrunk and nothing is made impossible.
Marrying a quietly perfect script with tape recordings, hair-raisingly poignant songs and a stunningly simple set, Beulah is unquestionably one of the most illuminating and intelligent works of theatre I think we have on the stage today. Nakedly honest and magically enchanting, Beulah transformed me into an embarrassingly soppy wreck, snuffing and whimpering with each inspiring scene.
Musicians of the most sensitive and tentative order, the two strong-cast of Jim Harbourne and Ed Wren find a sound that I think rings only out of the colourful pages of children’s story books. Using the most ramshackle instruments and props, this was a show that was modestly handmade with the multitude of fantastical characters coloured and made real from the simplest of symbols, sounds and objects. In this sense, Beulah became a kind of patchwork of the unmistakably ordinary and the everyday, hemmed together by stitches of ingenious perception.
Beulah is the type of performance whose gorgeous brilliance floats back into your mind long after the show, leaving you with a warm smile on your face and a tear in your eye in the most unexpected of moments. Whatever your theatrical tastes, Beulah has to be at the very top of your must-see Fringe list.
*****- 5/5 stars
Beulah is playing at C nova (studio 4) until August 27th (excluding 13th) at 17.15. For more information and tickets, see the Edinburgh Fringe website.