If you take Alba – A New Scottish Musical purely on plot, it seems filled with contrivances. Expatriate, hardworking Roddy begins the piece forced to return to Scotland to spread his father’s ashes, this being on a snow stormed New Years Eve, which is the day before he has the interview for the City job he always craved. Oh, and he meets a mysterious woman who may or may not change his life and his mind during the process.
When the wonderful music of Alba is kept in mind however, none of this seems to matter. Fin Anderson’s excellent songwriting keeps the slightly cliched story in check, with his lean yet muscular script bringing out nuances of character that elevate the tale beyond the typical.
The entire cast is a joy to behold, able to swap instruments and weave complex harmonies with admirable ease. As its star, Roddy, Andrew Barnett genuinely seems to grow throughout the piece. Beginning as slightly unlikeable, a series of emotional reminisces throughout help to elucidate his misgivings and endear him to us as an audience. His romantic interest, played by Carmella Brown, is also a standout. Her personal warmth and playful manner are the perfect accompaniment to the upliftingly rich numbers that populate the piece. When the two are forced to journey through the snow together, their relationship is sweet and believable. Browne’s character as a primary school teacher who sacks off future opportunity in favour of inward exploration is keenly drawn and realised.
Alba’s flaw then is that there just isn’t enough. At 45 minutes the musical feels all but unfinished, ending on a slightly sombre but ultimately unsatisfying note that begs further conclusion.
Taken as a whole, however, Alba is an excellent piece of work, one that restlessly moves between new characters and songs, seemingly never satisfied if the audience aren’t tapping or weeping along.
Alba – A New Scottish Musical is at theSpace @ Surgeons Hall (Venue 53) until 23 August. For more information and tickets visit the Edinburgh Fringe website.