Freak Show

Claire McKenzie and Scott Gilmour

The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

Assembly George Square

From 02 August 2013 to 26 August 2013

Rating: ****

Review by Robin Strapp

The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s Freak Show plays in repertoire with Forest Boy on alternative days. But this is a much darker macabre musical and it is ideally set in the Bosco Tent.

The MC of this travelling show (Connor Scully), is welcoming and introduces us to a variety of freakish acts. He entices us to experience the mad magical world of monsters and the world of circus.

There is the Unbreakable Abomination (Thomas Cotran) who is subjected to humiliating punishments. Claire Grehan is the Memory Man Orion who answers questions from the audience and little Miss Thimble, the delightful Naomi Shields and Alyssa Reeve as Ronnie Starr.

The cast build up an excellent rapport with the audience using the aisles of the tent to sit and address them directly. We are invited to judge which one of the three Dolly Sisters should be chosen in a talent competition should it be the ambitious mermaid (Catherine Jennings) the contortionist (Jimin Suh) or Old Julie (Taye Lily)?

An audience member is persuaded to participate as Rali, the lady of fortune (Marie-Anne McGrattan) who reveals his future. Then there is the missing link in humanity strongly played by Danny Homes.

Lauren Norris stands out as Gloria Rey, the half-lady a gripping mesmerising performance.

The second half moves backstage before the performance and is much more chilling. We discover more about their personal lives, the quarrels, fights and bitchy comments. There is a most moving song as they read out letters from home and letters sent.

The ensemble singing throughout is excellent and the score is tantalising beguiling and skilfully performed by the musicians. This is an inventive, touching and absorbing musical.