Edinburgh Fringe Review - Vulvarine: A New Musical

If you’re heading up to Edinburgh this summer then the number one company not to miss is Fat Rascal Theatre. Founded in 2016, the mischievous new musical theatre heroes have produced one hit after the other, and their Vulvarine: A New Musical is no exception. It returns to the Fringe this year alongside brand new musical parody Unfortunate: The Untold Story of Ursula the Sea Witch, and if you want to call yourself a musical theatre fan you'd better buy a ticket to both shows ASAP.

The cast of Vulvarine: A New Musical
Photo credit - Lidia Crisafulli 
Set in the painfully ordinary town of High Wickham, Vulvarine: A New Musical tells the story of overqualified and disaffected desk jockey Bryony Buckle, whose life is turned upside down when a mysterious vaccination and a shock from a rogue lightning bolt transform her into a kick-ass super powered action hero. 

With the fate of the world at risk thanks to her new found nemesis The Mansplainer, Bryony must join forces with her best friend Poppy and workplace sweetheart Orson Bloom, to do something extraordinary and save all of womankind.

Katie Wells and Allie Munro in Vulvarine: A New Musical
Photo credit - Lidia Crisafulli 
As with all of Fat Rascal Theatre’s productions, Vulvarine: A New Musical is hysterically funny, and the entire cast have their whizzbang line delivery down to a tee. Allie Munro exudes Bridget Jones-esque charisma as the musical’s endearing protagonist, meanwhile Robyn Grant displays bucketfuls of roguish irreverence as Vulvarine’s mortal enemy, whilst also multi-roling as Bryony’s foulmouthed cat Elton.

The cast of Vulvarine: A New Musical
Photo credit - Lidia Crisafulli 
The musical fizzes over with brilliant musical numbers, courtesy of Grant, co-writer Daniel Foxx, and James Ringer-Beck. By now they’ve mastered their own unique sound; bubbly, toe tapping contemporary musical theatre fare. The songs drive the production from start to finish, and the musical’s 75 minute run time zips along nicely as a result.

Smart, wickedly funny, and completely unique, Vulvarine: A New Musical is an Edinburgh Fringe must-see.

Going Out - Gingerline's Chambers_

Leave behind the world you know and journey into the multiverse this summer with Gingerline’s Chambers_, a completely immersive experience which sees audiences take on the role of universe hopping cartographers, dining on 5 courses of flavoursome food while traversing through a vast and sprawling interdimensional playground.

Photo credit - David Greig
As my friend and I arrive at the clandestine location of Gingerline’s latest culinary concourse (having received instructions on how to get to the location earlier that day), we trade in our earthly belongings for a hip and very functional bum-bag and a muddled-up map, which gives us our first hint as to what we’ve gotten ourselves into. More hints are dropped as we’re cryptically asked if we have any phobias. After replying in the negative, we’re allowed up into the bar to await the start of our gastronomic journey.

Photo credit - David Greig
After enjoying a cocktail or two in the dimly lit headquarters of the Dimension Centre, we’re shunted into what looks like the belly of a rickety spaceship, and expulsed into the first of our dimensional destinations. From then on it, there’s nowhere to go but onward. We clime, crawl and slide through a web of extraordinarily immersive worlds (Stripeland Productions have created a set so vast and intricate that it’d be difficult to describe even IF we were allowed to reveal the secrets of Chambers_), sampling the delicacies of each location we visit. 

Dietary requirements are catered for deftly, and although our vegetarian options do feel slightly less robust than their omnivorous counterparts, there’s more than enough food to keep us fuelled throughout the expedition.

Photo credit - David Greig
By the time we reach the end of our journey, our fellow audience members feel like friends. We’ve shared a remarkable night out, the likes of which we’re unlikely to experience again. Until, of course, Gingerline announces a follow-up.

Gingerline’s Chambers_ is an otherworldly trip like no other. Throw yourself into the action and you’ll have a truly unforgettable experience. Oh, and make sure you wear flat shoes. Even the most experience interdimensional travellers will struggle to navigate the multiverse in heels…

Review - Captain Corelli's Mandolin (Harold Pinter Theatre)

This summer, if you're not planning a holiday abroad then why not immerse yourself in the stage adaptation of Rona Munro’s adaptation of Louis de Bernières’s classic 1994 poolside read Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, which has transferred to the West End after a well received UK tour. 

Alex Mugnaioni and Madison Clare in Captain Corelli's Mandolin
Photo credit - Marc Brenner
The emotionally charged story, set in idyllic Cephalonia during the Italian and German Occupation, sees a cheery Italian army captain with a love for music form an uneasy bond with headstrong and understandably hostile local woman. In spite of the forces threaten their budding romance, the pair find solace in each other’s company, not knowing what the audience gets a sense of from the play’s very beginning; that their time together is limited, and that eventually fate will tear them apart.

Director Melly Still has created a soft focused, halcyon world for the characters to inhabit, which feels almost dreamlike in contrast to the chaos and violence of the war which threatens to encroach them. Tranquil lighting, set design and sound elements create a beautifully serene atmosphere, which washes over the production in waves.

The cast of Captain Corelli's Mandolin
Photo credit - Marc Brenner
Yes, aesthetically Captain Corelli’s Mandolin is quite beautiful, and the cast of actor-musicians tasked with bringing the tale to life is uniformly excellent. However, where the production falters is in its pacing. With so much content provided by the source material, the play feels fragmented and unfocussed at times. In fact, the titular character doesn’t even appear until the curtain is ready to come down on act one. Much of the time spent before the interval focuses on Pelagia’s small-town life and how she dreams of greater things for herself, all which being courted by the ill-fated local Mandras.

Starkly interspersing Pelagia’s relatively carefree days, are the harsh wartime memories of Italian soldier Carlo and his close friend turned lover Francesco, the former of which is stationed alongside Captain Corelli in act 2.

Alex Mugnaioni and the cast of Captain Corelli's Mandolin
Photo credit - Marc Brenner
Both storylines offer useful insights into the life of ordinary people during the war, but feel long winded and slightly aimless. Not to mention that by shunting the relationship of Captain Corelli and Pelagia to act 2, there is significantly less time to solidify the bond between them. Actors Alex Mugnaioni and Madison Clare give touching performances, and their chemistry is completely tangible, but what should be a slow burning journey from hate to adoration feels far too rushed.

Nevertheless, when the full force of the war arrives on the shores of Cephalonia, the play switches gears and becomes surprisingly brutal and engrossing. The aftermath is equally emotionally exhausting, as the survivors come to terms with the agony they have lived through, and try their best to move on.

The play's languorous first act may tread water for a bit too long, but there are moments of beauty, horror, romance, and terror throughout which totally mesmerise.

I was invited to review Captain Corelli's Mandolin thanks to London Box Office