Skip to content


Home arrow Archive: Earlier Fringes arrow Archive: Edinburgh 2010
Barbershopera - Apocalypse? No!
Published on Wednesday, 25 August 2010

4 stars

Pleasance Dome (venue website)
Until 29 Aug, 10:55pm (11:55pm)
Reviewed by Richard Stamp

Angels, demons… and four-part harmony.  The guys and gal of Barbershopera have returned, with a new show that – while not as tight as its previous incarnations – will do more than enough to satisfy their legion of loyal fans.  There’ll be close-harmony singing, there’ll be outrageous rhymes, there’ll be heaps of witty banter… and you’d better make the most of your last show on Earth, for tonight, the Horsemen will ride.

Except that one of them’s a woman.  This is no ordinary barbershop quartet, and those are no ordinary spectral harbingers… it seems God’s gofers had a bit of an off-day, and mistook a primary-school teacher for a cloaked destroyer of worlds.  And thus begins a comic gallop through human history, led by a lady with the courage to stand before her maker and ask the question: “Is your Apocalypse really necessary?”
Barbershopera is at its best when it’s at its most ridiculous, and this instalment contains a whole load of silly imagery to enjoy.  The group’s four members cycle endlessly through an array of roles, playing angels, cavemen, Ancient Greeks and a singing hand-dryer with equal aplomb.  The gently camp Horsemen bestride truly rubbish horses; implausibly tiny puppets play the kids in our plucky teacher’s class.  There’s a mad professor, a hilarious slow-mo sack race… and just wait till you see what happens when they meet the man upstairs.
There’s one big let-down though, and it’s a surprising one: there simply isn’t enough barbershop.  Fans from previous years will remember tightly-knitted works which, though no slave to the formalities of musical style, were pretty much sung-through.  Look carefully at the middle bit of this one, though, and you’ll see it’s something different: a series of spoken sketches, with a repeated theme tune in between.  Time and again, I found myself lamenting an idea that could have been so much funnier in song… I was especially disappointed that the lyrical potential of Yorkshire puddings went so cruelly unexplored.

The lyrics are as creatively preposterous as they’ve ever been, and the harmonies are every bit as perfectly-tuned.  It’s just that there are rather less of them.  For all that, though, there’s much to recommend Barbershopera; it’s reliable, laugh-aloud comedy and there is, even amidst all those ludicrous shenanigans, a feelgood message to the plot.  If you’re new to their act, it’s time to find out what the fuss is about… and if you’re a die-hard fan, go get your annual fix.  I miss the music, yes; but it really isn’t the end of the world.

<< 101   Jimmy McGhie - The All-Po... >>


These are archived reviews of shows from the Edinburgh Fringe 2010.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to those we've featured, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.

Edinburgh 2013

Coming to the Fringe this year?  We can help you make the most of your time.  Learn about Edinburgh's summer Festivals and plan your visit around the city's major events. 

Find out more >>