Juxtaposition can be tricky. On the one hand the most disparate of ingredients can often meld melodiously, drawing out elements from the other that were otherwise not imagined. Sometimes though there can be too much going at the expense of the whole, such as within Symphony, a busy musical three-parter that suffers from a lack of stability at its core. Made up of four talented actors who are able to swap instruments and roles at will, it is disappointing then that such energy doesn’t go towards something more stirring.
That isn’t to say that the three parts need to narratively interlink, but there just really is no charm or reason between them. The first and arguably most annoying of the three finds a hyperactive Jamie ‘Jonesy’ James lamenting in feverish irritating screams his need for a GCSE in netball. Clichés knowingly abound here, with most of the humor coming from characters deadpan repeating moments that have just occurred. The second starts encouragingly with a clever song idea of London itself apologising to its citizens for letting it down – getting a bit fatter and greyer, but features an unappealing, slightly creepy, male lead who works off pity laughs rather than actual engagement. Finally the third is probably the most successful, featuring a romance that is likeable and well drawn, with Ella Hickson in particular standing out with charm and grace.
These inconsistencies could be forgiven though if the music just wasn’t so compositionally repetitive. Songs bloom constantly from plot points and emotional light bulbs, but always revert to the same repetitive bass figures garnished with the same splashy chords – regardless of the talented quartet’s ability to swap instruments at will. This perhaps was the greatest failure, more inventive songwriting could have elevated the soggy plot, but the current crop causes it to bloat and meander.
I really wanted to like Symphony and I could tell the cast really wanted me to like it too. They all play with great timing and spirit, but it just didn’t blossom in the way that it probably should.
Symphony by Ella Hickson, Nick Payne and Tom Wells is at the Assembly George Square Gardens (Venue 3) until 25 August. For more information and tickets visit the Edinburgh Fringe website.