Review – Godspell

August 4, 2013 | By | 2 Replies More

✭✭✭✭✩  Casts a spell

Forth Childrens Theatre production of Godspell. Photo © Mark Gorman

Forth Childrens Theatre production of Godspell. Photo © Mark Gorman

Inverleith Church Hall (Venue 120)
Fri 2-Sat 10 Aug
Review by Hugh Simpson

Godspell may be a Fringe stalwart but FCT’s production at Inverleith Church Hall is particularly noteworthy. And not just because it is the first British appearance of the new vocal and musical arrangemements from the 2012 Broadway revival.

Gus Harrower (Jesus) is not a conventional choice for a leading man in a musical. Noticeably shorter than most of the cast, when he first takes the stage his large glasses and accent put you more in mind of Woody Allen.

However, his understated yet commanding performance, allied to his undoubted musical talent, means that he is able to bear the weight of a thankless role.

There is a problem with the second half of Godspell – quite frankly, the best songs all come in Act One, and the presentation of the Passion can seem worthy and slow. But not on this occasion, when Harrower’s performance displays a touching vulnerability which helps keep the show moving.

In the only other named role, Ronan Rafferty shows great stage presence, first calm and poised as John the Baptist, then suitably tortured as Judas. The other principal members of the cast all seize their chance when it is their turn in the spotlight.

Harmony Rose-Bremner sets the tone early with Day By Day. As the show’s most famous number, this could be the most daunting, but her admirable combination of power and restraint is as much in evidence here as it is in the rest of her performance. Eve Thomas-Yates similarly demonstrates not only that she possesses vocal power, but also that she knows when to use it.

It is the ensemble which is the real star of the show
Forth Childrens Theatre production of Godspell. Photo © Mark Gorman

Forth Childrens Theatre production of Godspell. Photo © Mark Gorman

Maya Stewart, Hayley Scott and Sophie Williams all combine strong voices with assured acting, while Reuben Woolard and Max Cutting both display a combination of authority and emotion. Charlie West and Alex Gordon, meanwhile, combine likeability and assured physical comedy in their double act. The band, under MDs Dan Glover and Claire Saunders, are extremely accomplished, but occasionally the sound levels need a little tweaking in order not to drown out the singers.

Director Ronan Radin has said that Godspell is about the forming of a community as much as it is about religion, so it is fitting that it is the ensemble which is the real star of the show here. As well as making excellent use of the space, Radin uses everyone’s talents to the full, whether in dancing, acting or comedy.

The presentation of the parables is imaginative; audience interaction and local and topical references are all the more impressive for being lightly worn. Alex Bathe’s cameo as the fatted calf is only one of a number of noteworthy contributions, but there are no weak links here. The accents, the singing, the energy levels – all remain consistent throughout.

The decision to use a thrust stage means that the cast are always up close to the audience and there literally is nowhere for them to hide. For much of the performance, more than 30 members of the cast are performing Katie Renton’s beautifully thought-out choreography in a space which, at first sight, seems hardly big enough for so many people to stand still – let alone move and sing with such skill, gusto and infectious enjoyment.

Running time 2 hrs 25 mins
Run ends Sat 10 Aug
Tickets: www.edfringe.com
Inverleith Church Hall, Inverleith Gardens, Ferry Road, Edinburgh, EH3 5PR
Forth Childrens Theatre website: forthchildrenstheatre.wordpress.com

ENDS

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Comments (2)

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  1. jim says:

    Went to the show on opening night. From the warm welcome from the start by the staff and the atmosphere of the hall I knew it was going to be a good night.
    I was not dissapointed. It was a great show, worthy of F.C.T.
    The cast, the crew, everyone – it was a wonderful night, keep up the good work. It’s a credit to all involved.
    Thank you
    Jim

  2. Abby says:

    Such an amazing show! I would say it was one of my favourite shows done by F.C.T! 😀 The cast was full of smiles throughout the show and the songs were so catchy! The costumes were great and the atmosphere of the hall was good too! Worth the time to trek in to Edinburgh from Bathgate! Great show guys! Cant wait to see the next! 😀

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