To Chris Guy & Nathalie Delorme:
Congratulations on the production of your new musical Electronica. Getting anything resembling a musical produced in Fringe London these days is a massive achievement. Programmes were unavailable on Saturday, and while one was promised via email, posting commentary in a timely manner overrode my ability to wait. Please forgive any misspellings or improper song titles as a result. Hopefully this post will still be useful and constructive for the show’s future.
The performance I attended (Saturday, 17 Nov.) was sparsely attended, but a solid show...for a draft. The score is incredibly catchy and most of the songs are well crafted, such as the opening battle (“Change the World” / “I Wear What I Want”), “End of an Era”, and “Just Wondering”. A couple of the numbers (e.g. Jackie’s waltz) are clunkers, but expected for a show in development.
Combining live guitar and keys with extended pre-recorded tracks is an interesting approach to the venue and budgetary restrictions, but why not go entirely pre-recorded at that point? And why use an acoustic guitar when the reliant tracks are so electric? Also, the cast need to be mic’ed when singing - not because it’s impossible to hear them, but because an undistorted voice clashes with punk and electronic backing.
In addition to the score, using Camden Town in 1981 is a smart decision, and the dialogue and costumes are appropriately reflective. However, with strikes every week and the New Romantics (who receive plenty of lipservice) all around plus the Falklands on the horizon, the book lacks the depth necessary to do the era justice. The basic plot is respectable, but the time frame (one week) is too short for the story. Additionally, the characters are shallow and one-dimensional: Tippie gets everything she wants, Koog is slimy, and Alec is the naïve kid manipulated by the rest.
The winner of the central conflict, the battle of the bands in Act Two, is obvious from the first scene - there’s no suspense, and the key performances aren’t shown (could there be a better point to put in a pair of songs to build depth and tension?). The problem is compounded as sub-plots such as Alec’s flirtation with drug use are written off - I expected him to pass out towards the end of the second act, but the actual events were underwhelming. The book also fails to support some of the songs, such as “End of an Era”, which is deserving of a far better set-up. The performance numbers need more introspective lyrics, but they will come with revision.
In spite of the flaws, the evening passed quickly and the pacing was tight - I enjoyed the show greatly. Electronica has the potential for an extended Fringe run or trip to the festival circuit should the book get the attention it needs and deserves, but the strength of the score demands a better text. I look forward to seeing a new revision in 2008, and wish you the best of luck on your future work.
Where: The Red Hedgehog, Highgate
When: 20-24 Nov., 27 Nov.-1 Dec. @ 8:00 PM
How Much: £11
Concessions: £10 if you come via mass transit. They assume you do, though.
RZ Unofficial “Worth Paying”: A very tentative £10. The RZ believes in supporting new talent in musical theatre, but this is reading/workshop level stuff, and not the polished work that a tenner will get you in any of the major fringe venues.
RZ Other Thoughts: Again, no programme, no cast info. In the RZ’s opinion, the cast were a mixed bag, and ranged from decent all-round to good at acting or good at singing to flat out annoying. YMMV.