Edinburgh Fringe Review - No Horizon

No Horizon is a new musical which tells the true story of Nicholas Saunderson, a young blind boy with incredible intellect, who dreams of learning at Cambridge University in a time before braille was invented.

The show stars Samuel Reid, an impressive young leading man with an excellent voice, who wins the audience over with his warmth and charisma. Similarly, George Griffiths does well to bring Saunderson's Cambridge-bound friend Joshua Dunn to life, milking every one of his lines for all it is worth. It's a shame that Saunderson's love interest barely registers for much of the show, as young actress Sophie Bradley has a beautifully delicate voice, and makes a perfect ingenue.

With such an interesting and untapped subject to explore, No Horizon certainly has plenty of promise. However, unfortunately the current production has a couple of flaws which really do bring the quality of the piece down. Most notably, almost every one of the very long scene changes take place in blackouts, during which cast members carry benches and other props on and off the stage. The blackouts are awkward and hamper the pace of the plot dramatically. There is also an overreliance on drably coloured projected backgrounds. Obviously the use of projections has its advantages, however, in No Horizon the lack of anything except basic sets and props makes the stage seem very bare, and the two dimensional projections only draw further attention to this. However, other elements of the design were more effective, in particular the costumes by Helen Reid, which injected some welcome colour into the show.

Additionally, the script could do with a bit of reworking, as several scenes contain repetitive dialogue, or convey information which the audience could have inferred for themselves. Although there are many witty lines in the piece, there is also a lot of fat that could be trimmed, especially in the more stagnant dialogue heavy scenes.

However, while the dialogue seems tired, No Horizon's score is very promising, with a couple of brilliant standout numbers. The most entertaining of which are vaudevillian numbers sung by an ensemble of Cambridge students as they lament being 'thick' and not being able to follow their lecturer's dreary teachings. The cast is uniformly hilarious, and the simple but well executed choreography is very fitting. The title song is also a real earworm. Overall, the cast bring the score to life beautifully, and tackle the slightly laboured script with aplomb. 

No Horizon is clearly a labour of love for all involved, especially writer Andy Platt, whose admiration for Saunderson is evident in the script and all of the promotional material. However, the musical lauded as 'The Les Mis of Yorkshire' could do with a bit of polishing and focusing, and an overall lighter touch. It will be interesting to see what happens to No Horizon after its Edinburgh run, as the production is aiming for a UK tour. Saundersons tale deserves recognition, and No Horizon is the perfect vehicle to bring his story to a wider audience, however, it doesn't feel quite ready yet. 

No Horizon plays at the Underbelly Med Quad every day at 5pm until 27th August