Cut to the Chase
An adaptation of Beaumarchais' Barber of Seville by Christopher Deans
Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
Cut To The Chase boasts what is probably the most mixed audience I've ever encountered at a Traverse show. The lively audience includes age groups from pre-teens to pensioners. Obviously, this raises the stakes for the performers, as their performance has to engage all sorts of people. Happily, they do justice to Christopher Deans' excellent modern-day adaptation of The Barber of Seville by Beaumarchais, and keep everyone glued to their seats for the duration of the performance.
Act one is short, but gripping and dynamic. The fast-paced, energetic tale of a horny young operatic diva out to hook up and raise the stakes on her career gets off to a stunning start as we watch Big Al Maloney (Jimmy Harrison) and Robbie Rich (Johnny McKnight) scheme ways to get a crossover contract signed by Charlene (Michele Gallagher). The complication is that, due to an alcoholic mother's lack of maternal concern, Charlene's manager Barry Rollo (Ross Stenhouse) has the right to first refusal when Charlene's current contract expires. Toss in lovestruck assistant Donna Bazile (Linda Duncan McLaughlin) and the plot is away like a shot. The plot becomes less clear-cut in act two, but Deans still brings the show to a satisfactory conclusion with Charlene's last stand.
Aside from the beginning of the play, where parts of the set (designed by Emma Donovan) get in the way of seeing what's actually taking place on stage, the set serves its purpose in showing us the squalid, third-rate hotel where Rollo has brought his young ward, and the music selection showcases today's pop "talent" from Kylie to Britney and beyond. Original music by Robert Burlin recalls the origins of the adaptation.
Within the five-strong cast, it's impossible to rank one performance as being better than another. All the actors demonstrate the highest caliber of talent, fully inhabiting their characters (or in Harrison's case, inhabiting his character inhabiting at least two other characters), and in the hands of director Natalie Wilson they deliver their performances in synch with the farcical nature of the play. Most comical appearance probably goes to McKnight, whose camp ex-boy-band member struts his stuff in a shirt at least two sizes too small, while McLaughlin definitely deserves credit for her turn as a female Elvis impersonator.
One of the biggest challenges in getting young people to attend theatre is that they rarely feel the show will apply to or interest them. In the case of Cut To The Chase, however, most of the members of the school groups in attendance seemed eager to see the show, and satisfied with what they'd seen afterwards. Not only have Complete Productions successfully marketed to this age group, to whom Deans' play is probably most immediately relevant and accessible, but over the course of this two-hour evening they do something far more difficult - they actually deliver on the promise offered by their advertising.
A bit ironic for a show about characters keen on making a quick buck at the expense of anyone gullible enough to buy their lies.
Reviewer: Rachel Lynn Brody