City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland


By Lindsay Corr - Posted on 11 August 2009

Show details
Running time: 
Nick Hale (Composer), Matthew James (Lyrics), Max Kinnings (Producer), Anna Ostergren (Director), Rebecca Reaney (Choreographer)
Jason Langley (Ben), Jessica Sherman (Emma), Lucy Smethurst (Monique), Terry Burns (Parnell), Manal El-Feitury (Odette), Laura Bailey (Angel)

Ushering us into the performance space with a pulsating rock guitar riff echoing around, there is a buzz as the late night audience wait to become hooked on a new, modern musical, apparently based on real life experiences of producer Matthew James.

With a simple set and black cloth backdrop, we're introduced to a lap-dancing club as the sultry trio, led by the voluptuously hot Odette (Manal El-Feitury) belt out ‘Ready to Roll', which sets the audience up by asking if we're ready for action, telling us we can have it all and highlighting the escape for those who want to forget the mundane everyday.

Ben (Jason Langley) is just another guy who has been sucked into this world of escape, enjoying the excitement and evading the boredom of his PR job and loving wife Emma (Jessica Sherman) through drugs and an affair with newcomer Monique (Lucy Smethurst), a Romanian innocent who longs to be a singer but becomes embroiled in the shady shenanigans of lap-dance club owner Parnell (Terry Burns).

We follow Ben's story as he directly addresses us at intervals throughout in a Brechtian style approach to the piece, watching his crash and burn to an almost fatal OD, travelling back to how he found himself ladled on the lap-dancing floor and the aftermath of his near death experience. The show uses the central narrative to explore drugs, the sex trade, violence and murder, and the ease with which this murky underworld can infiltrate middle England.

Max Kinnings' storyline is somewhat contrived and plays out like a late night Hollyoaks special as Ben tries to correct his wrongs and tangles with both Emma and Monique, discarding and loving both as and when the situation suits him. Rather than believe he honestly has feelings for either women, we sense he's a weak man who doesn't want to be alone and plays each woman off each other, the result being a strange ménage-a-trois involving an ickle baby.

The affair between Ben and Monique is not fully realised. It is sudden and seems fickle, which jars with their duet ‘Don't Let Me Down', which although wonderfully delivered by Langley and Sherman oddly knocks the flow and tone of the show.

The weak and not fully developed story arch aside, this is a musical with eleven numbers beautifully composed (Nick Hale) and delivered by a cast in great voice. The overriding sound is rock and pop infusion, with a lovely, jazzy cabaret number by Ben titled ‘What I'm Looking For'.

The songs meld well together, highlights being the lap dancers' ‘Where the Pleasure Lies' (including excellent choreography by Rebecca Reaney) and Emma's pissed-off ‘Written on the Wall', delivered with passion by Sherman as she satisfyingly finishes the number and marriage with a booming "Fuck You" to Ben.

Some of the acting scenes are a little stilted, lacking direction from Anna Ostergren and there are an embarrassing couple of stage slaps and punches, but overall this is a musical that grabs you and wants to captivate. Mixing some aspects of other musicals such as Cabaret and Rent, it's a brave show that entertains and with a little more work could be very successful.

Times: 7-30 August (not 11, 17, 24 Aug), 11.15pm

© Lindsay Corr, August 2009