‘The Edge’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by June 13, 2018

‘The Edge’ is described as a Goodbye Musical for adults! The book, music and lyrics were all written by Murdoch University Masters graduate, Nick Choo. Malaysian-born Nick is an award-winning composer and lyricist. He arranges and plays most of his music for the theatre. He returned to Murdoch University in 2016 to pursue his PhD in Creative Arts.

Because the content relates to suicide, if any patrons feel in need of a one-to-one chat, then crisis support is available from Lifeline Australia on 13-11-14.

This dynamic new musical premiered in Malaysia before coming to Perth for its Australian Premiere. The Musical Director is Nick Choo.

This 130-minute production (with an interval) is a joint presentation by Catface Productions and The Blue Room. It can be seen in the main Blue Room Theatre at 53 James Street, Northbridge in the PICA entertainment complex.

The set designer, Sara Nives Chirichilli, has given us a mainly black surround, with the corner of a small coffee shop, and a local countryside beauty spot. Simple but effective. Too much detail would have detracted from the storyline. The Stage Manager was Thomas Dimmick.

Director, Levon Polinelli also operated the subtle lighting that was designed by Kristie Smith.

 

     With cacophonous music playing, Jarrod (Emerson Brophy) awakes. It is Sunday morning, not just any Sunday morning, as Saturday saw a tragic family funeral. In the kitchen sits widowed Mum, Lily (Claudia Van Zeller), smartly dressed in beige and pearls, struggling to understand why any mother should have to bury a son, as she did yesterday.

     We flash back about a month where we follow the life and loves of Jarrod’s younger brother, Josh (Josh is ‘invisible’ with the cast using the fourth wall). Jarrod has for most of his life had to love and care for Josh, but now Josh is getting out of hand and cadging money to fritter away. At the local coffee shop, where Josh works, one of the waitresses, April (Grace Nicole Johnson) cares for young Josh, but she too is getting annoyed with his strange behaviour, attitude and the fact that he is losing interest in his artistic ambitions.

      One day, Josh takes his girlfriend, Deanna (Madeleine Shaw) to a local beauty spot in order to prove his love!

     Feeling held down by his slightly domineering Mum, and a strict older brother, Josh decides to leave home. When a young man, Ryan (Tate Bennett) offers to share his flat, Josh is pleased to accept.

     Michael (Philip Lynch) is Josh’s best friend; he is a car mechanic by day and a fun loving larrikin by night. Even Michael is finding Josh annoying. Nothing seems to be going right for Josh and he declares he wants to end his life, but will these friends be in time to save him?

 

This is a powerful, no punches pulled play that examines the relationships between family and friends, along with the difficulty in showing forgiveness. Associations that appear simple on the surface, prove to have tremendous depth, responsibilities and complex links. Relationships that affect a huge circle of people surface, some so remote that the average person would never think about.

Director Levon J. Polinelli has been given a wonderfully written script to present. The story threads are tragic, gripping, interesting, at times hilarious and enlightening. For the whole performance I was entranced by the characters and their interaction. Anger, deep love, heartbreak, adoration, frustration – all of these demanding acting skills were required in a set of exhausting performances. It is hard to imagine a better cast. The cast gave it their all, at times tears were rolling down their faces at their loss.

Then after being expected to have all of these dramatic talents, this cast blew the audience away with their magnificent voices. Each one was rich, with power and depth. Thankfully there was no nasal singing, every note being pure. A large vocal range was required by each vocalist, yet they all handled the challenge with ease. The lyrics of this almost operatic musical were fresh, exciting and precise. The rhyming couplets of the songs were ingenious, and often brought a smile.

The show started with a rousing chorus in four-part harmony from the whole cast, but most of the numbers were solos, perfectly presented.

The superb live musical accompaniment was played on keyboard by Nick Choo, guitar and percussion by Alan Banks, viola by Rachel Hicks and on flute, saxophone and clarinet by Talitha Dunn. Wisely, the band was in an adjoining room and so did not overpower the singers.

The show’s topic sounds highly depressing, but the writing gave us a beautiful, well-balanced mix of personalities and views. It was informative and very sad, but not disturbing. Not once did I look at my watch, I was engrossed throughout.

This unusual, quality musical, with its live accompaniment and superb singing, certainly demands a viewing. In time, I expect it to become a major musical.