Creatives, a “darkly comic pop opera”, sounds intriguing at first – the book is co- authored by Irvine Welsh of Trainspotting fame and the music is by award-winning composer Laurence Mark Wythe. The story meanwhile purports to deal with important issues such as artistic integrity, plagiarism and cultural identity. However, it’s all downhill from there. A painful mix of clichéd characters, a mindless plot and lacklustre music, this show contradicts its title.

Creatives takes place in a Chicago songwriting classroom where students are competing for a $5,000 cash prize donated by a very successful yet obnoxious alumnus. The students are complete stereotypes – the goth, the girly girl, the immigrant with a chip on his shoulder… Fourteen musical numbers which visibly try the audience’s patience ensue. Even if, perhaps, the characters are not meant to be particularly talented, it seems unwise for a musical to structure itself around vacuous music. The actors all play instruments, not all of them particularly well – again, a mistaken attempt to add interest to the show.

There is little resemblance between this and Irvine Welsh’s more successful work other than quite a bit of swearing and an unexpected (and completely gratuitous) turn to violence about halfway through the show. But even this sudden attempt to add suspense was not enough to keep the audience, as a few around me walked out
shortly after.

On top of everything, the design and staging do not work. On the stage of Pleasance One (quite a large venue by Fringe standards), this show seems lost – a low-key contemporary musical like this would work much better in a smaller space. The set, a large metal structure with a screen behind it, with a few box-like seats scattered about, adds nothing to the musical, other than perhaps at the very beginning. In what must be the most interesting scene of the whole show, we see the celebrity alumnus with his back to us, watch a short interview he has given, his face blown up
to gigantic proportions on the back of the stage. Nevertheless, he is immediately unsympathetic to us, setting the tone for our reception of the whole story.

This musical’s only redeeming quality is its attempt to explore some interesting and timely issues. However, there is no use in having good ideas if you cannot bring them across. Among failed attempts to bring such topics as race, politics and feminism into the discussion, a few too many cringe-inducing lyrics, disappointing performances and a terrible tendency for the dialogue to be characterised by either screaming or monotony, Creatives falls flat.

Creatives is playing Pleasance Courtyard until August 23 rd . For more information and tickets, see