There’s shows about shows, theatre about theatre and then there’s [Title of Show], a musical about two guys writing a musical about two guys writing a musical. It’s essentially Inception for musical nerds. Stumped for ideas for their next show, Jeff (Ben Skingsey) and Hunter (Harvey Westwood), form of a script using everything they say, or rather everything they say is from the script that they have not yet written; whichever is less of a mind boggle.
Cobble and Rhyme’s production is performed in the intimate setting of the C cubed main space, with the audience thrusted on three sides. The show’s movement is fitting with the space, as directors, Jack Reitman and Hope Cotterill, craftily change its shape by moving the actors through it with natural turns. The constant revolving of positions means it is effortless to feel fully immersed. With such interweaving dialogue, the pace of flow is crucial to keep the energy, which is executed with purposeful focus from all four performers; it is constantly flowing and never feels staggered.
Beautiful surprises include [Spoiler alert] spontaneous use of puppetry allowing a picture frame to come to life and the physical creation of a speed boat, formed with bodies, bunting and a spark of imagination. All four performances aren’t just strong, but surpass this by feeling incredibly real. Additionally, the contrast of naturalistic versus non-naturistic lighting emphasises the distinction between the show within the show, and the show within that.
Each actor absorbs their respective characters from head to toe, evident in the way they stand, express and move across the state. Westwood’s relaxation in his legs and hips adds a spring to his step whilst Skingsey’s heavier movement creates the contrast of personalities. The tight-knit ensemble is completed with Heidi Parsons (Heidi), Charlie Walker (Susan) and Harry Haden-Brown (who plays Larry whilst at the piano). All four have voices which blend beautifully together and are just as strong independently.
With the puzzle pieces so well executed, it’s challenging to determine why this show didn’t fully entertain, although by process of elimination I believe it’s the show itself that just doesn’t work for me. Ultimately, it was just a little uninteresting, with similar musical undertones to Rent, but with very little emotional intensity. Yet, ironically enough, this show-within-a-show (-within-a-show?) comments on the fact the songs are forgettable and the script doesn’t really work, thus perhaps this is the whole point of it all.
Ultimately, this is a production that just wasn’t to my taste. Yet with such a talented cast and creative team, it’s exciting to see what they’ll come up with next.
[Title of Show] is playing C cubed until 29 August. For more information and tickets, see The Edinburgh Fringe website.