City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

The Ballad of the Unbeatable Hearts Review

By Kenneth Scott - Posted on 08 August 2011

Richard Fry
Show details
Richard Fry / Gilded Balloon
Running time: 
Richard Fry (writer)
Richard Fry

While the flyers for the show describe this as a “new play”, it sits firmly in that frontier between theatre and verse that has been home to Richard Fry’s previous hit “tour-de-verse” shows.

Fry performs his ballad in true rhyming form, eulogising the achievements of John, a Smalltown boy who little by little faces his secret affliction and changes not only his own life but also the world.

He does this by forming The Unbeatable Hearts, a foundation and family for those lost souls and dead hearts who have been let down by society and a lack of role models. People like himself, self styled as a “fat, gay loser”. Soon mountains are being scaled and valleys explored by a “platoon of poofs” and a “battalion of benders”. It’s all uplifting stuff but the litany of do-gooding becomes a little saccharine and borders on being preachy. So much so that when the dénouement comes it lacks bite - perhaps because we are still on a sugar-rush.

Fry’s delivery of the monologue is slick; sometimes rattling along with the pace of a W H Auden poem, but it somewhat lacks the variations in speed and emotional depth to draw the audience in. There are moments of humour but these are derived from the linguistic tricks and turns rather than from empathy with the character’s plights and triumphs.

The narrative has an important message about turning around a climate of fear, facing persecution and addressing a ticking time bomb of suicides amongst young gay people. Fry intends to tour the show in schools and it’s perfect for this – appropriate, timely and educational. It may still need to be cut and unsweetened. A spoon-full of sugar doesn’t always help the medicine go down. Hopefully it will become the power ballad it deserves to be.

Show times: 3-29 August 2011 12.15pm

Ticket prices: £9.00 (£8.00) - £10.00 (£9.00)