The story of Edinburgh’s notorious Deacon Brodie has been picked, plucked, gathered and cropped by a variety of writers and producers over the years, usually based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde. In this in it is the historical account of William Brodie that is presented by Carpe Diem Productions.
From the opening music from the small but excellent orchestra I sensed that this was a new musical that was going to have numbers that were tuneful and easy on the ear. Peter D. Robinson has apart from one Burns song, come up with a hatful of good music that was delivered by a talented cast.
The story of ‘Brodie’ is of a renowned cabinet maker and respectable member of Edinburgh society who goes about his daily business among the upper classes while at night he likes to hang out at the other end of the scale carousing and chasing women.
While that may not be unique, William Brodie also turned to crime putting together a team of criminals to put his intimate knowledge of the locks of buildings in the City to good use. His story is retold to the regulars in an Inn somewhere in Edinburgh and he invites some of them to take on the parts of the characters in his story while we get a parallel insight into the lives of the players. The concept is good as the main character in both worlds struggle with the ladies in his life.
At the heart of the show is the innkeeper played by Duncan Robertson who has a rich voice and formidable stage prescence supported by Linda Robertson playing the nagging wife with some of the best lines. Kirsty Anderson has some of the best songs and brings quality to everyone that she performs as either the serving girl in the Inn or as Jean Grant in ‘Brodie’ time. Indeed all the female singers impress with special mention to Laura Spence as the Duchess of Buccleuch with the song ‘There were times’.
Peter Robinson is at the centre of this production whether as Lachlan Ogilvie or as the Deacon and carries the dual role well with a good singing voice to accompany his acting skills.
The Deacon has all the right ingredients: good original music, interesting concept, humorous lines and a cast of talented singers/actors but somehow it does not quite hit the mark.
A previous attempt at a musical about the Deacon ‘Lock, stock and Brodie’ by the late Iain Laidlaw was much more rollicking and bawdy than this production. It had a documentary feel about it and was more Edinburgh New Town than the Old Town of closes and alehouses that Brodie frequented.
The aspects of the trial and subsequent execution were crying out for dramatic effect which was missing in this production. Many of the cast are passive and static for lots of the time and perhaps collaboration with another composer of other styles of song would provide a winning combination.
However, if you enjoy listening to good music sung well, while understanding the life and times of William Brodie then the’ The Deacon’ could be for you.
Runs to 27 August at 19:45
Tickets: £10 (£7)