In Everglade Studio
Black Bat Productions
Assembly George Square
London, 1974, where the musical duo of Baron and Skye are in a subterranean recording studio trying to hammer out a new album.
Their slimy manager Clarke wants all their tracks locked tonight, but doesn’t even seem to care about the quality, and has invited in a young, black musician, Mathilda, to help meld their sound into something more saleable to black American audiences. But events conspire to prevent them leaving, and there’s something not quite right in the air. It’s a microcosm of tensions, egos and furious music, while they each begin to spiral more and more out of control.
It’s a great premise, and with plot elements increasingly driving the escalation of tensions, and the overall sense of dread, this is certainly a claustrophobic experience. It’s also musically excellent. Opening to a full song number, hammered out on guitar and keyboard, the play weaves more music and ties the performances into the evolving mess of confusion and resentments growing all round as things escalate.
There are some odd choices in the play. The overall concept relies on something of a suspension of disbelief, as the audience has to believe that this much-used old recording studio somehow hasn’t caused problems before this specific night. Moreover, when it’s outright stated that the effects are showing after only a single hour spent there. There was also an extreme reaction to some iconography late into the play that begged the question of whether it would land the same way for a bunch of Londoners in the 1970s as it does for a 2023 audience. However these small quirks aren’t deal breakers by any regard.
A larger issue is that the pacing of the piece, some curiously worded narration and an unexpected time jump rather disrupt the momentum, as well as the energy of the performance. It’s always a possibility for Fringe theatre that the runtime restrictions will constrain things, and in this case, it feels like the piece either needs to be shorter and tighter, or longer with a more gradual and clear pace.
Still, while the end will leave you wishing for more, it’s far from being a mediocre piece of theatre. The music, acting and the story will linger long in your mind after the show ends, and it’s clear that the company has a lot to say, and is going to shout it loud, in word and song.
Reviewer: Graeme Strachan