First there was Jerry Springer: The Opera. Then there was Eurobeat: Almost Eurovision. And now, a hybrid has emerged in Big Bruvva: The Musical as six wacky characters compete for the audience’s text message vote in this entertaining yet weak-toothed satire of reality television, recently performed at Upstairs at the Gatehouse and soon running at this year’s Edinburgh festival.
The idea behind Big Bruvva is solid enough: As their final challenge, the housemates must act out their day as a 55 minute musical before the audience votes the winner. There are confessionals/butter churning sessions aplenty, as the characters make their confessions to an increasingly snarky and sadistic Big Bruvva.
And what of these characters? Well, they’re everything you expect: the narcissistic pretty-boy, the anorexic bimbo, the gangsta, the moron, and the sexually ambiguous hermaphrodite with an agenda. And this is where the problems emerge. When Jerry Springer used these characters, it portrayed both a sense of knowing exploitation on behalf of Jerry the character, but also a look at the motivations behind what makes cheating diaper fetishists want to reveal themselves on national television. Big Bruvva lacks this emotional involvement, in part due to runtime, keeping everything (and everybody) on the surface: there are no hidden motivations for the housemates, merely a desire to be famous and shout at each other on TV. A bigger disappointment, however, is just how little it matters who wins at the end. Unlike in Eurobeat which changes its ending number and jokes accordingly, Big Bruvva has each person singing the same song.
Depth (or lack thereof) aside, Big Bruvva is a lot of fun. While the evening’s biggest laugh came from a meta-joke (of which there are many...jokes about musicals being musicals are getting old...), there are lots of chances for the audience to smile and chuckle. The songs are on the simple side, but complex doesn’t always mean better and they serve this type of material well - a chorus here and a verse there were stuck in the RZ’s head, which fulfils the “hum it on your way out” requirement. The cast aren’t amazing, but there’s a limit to what you can get on a fringe budget, but that’s matched by paying fringe prices. See it if you’ve got a free slot at the fringe or want something to wake you up after hours of pretentious straight plays or foreign high schoolers butchering a plethora of established and decidedly non-fringe musicals. Fun, fast moving fluff, and it’s meant in the best way possible.
Where: Edinburgh Fringe Festival
When: Check your fringe guide
How Much: Ditto
RZ Unofficial “Worth Paying”: £7.50
RZ Other Notes: Unlike Eurobeat, you text your votes to a proper mobile number so you aren’t surcharged for it. Also, keep an eye on the video screens beforehand for cameos by ex-Big Brother contestants.