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Tomorrow's Dawn

2 starsReviewed by Richard Stamp
Arts Centre Studio
8 Jul 9:30pm to 10:45pm, 9-10 Jul 8pm to 9:15pm

It truly pains me to have to say this, but French musical Tomorrow’s Dawn was doomed from the very start – from the moment they decided to sing it in English.  It’s sadly clear that most of the cast don’t speak the language with fluency, a fact which presents them an insurmountable artistic challenge.  And so, their story of youthful love and family drama becomes lost… buried by the weight of garbled syntax, and bamboozlingly mispronounced words.

The riposte, of course, is an obvious one – their English is unquestionably better than my GCSE French – and I promise you, I approached the comprehension test with the very best of goodwill. I clung on as hard as I could, for as long as I could, but I finally had to let go. A teacher became a TV star, but I’ve no idea how or why. Teenage lovers quarrelled over issues I couldn’t understand. At one point something truly tragic happened, but I only know that because the actors changed into black clothes and sang in a minor key. I could go on, but I’m sure you get the idea.

While I have a lot of sympathy for the hard-working actors, I’m less forgiving of the translation itself, whose curious turns of phrase reinforced the well-known point that you should always get things checked by a native speaker. And the saddest part is that I strongly suspect the script is very funny. I laughed heartily at the few jokes I did get – such as the moment when an incongruous girl-band song was summarily aborted (though I have to admit, I was secretly rather enjoying that particular number).

The elements of acting which transcend language seemed high-quality as well. Facial expressions are natural and eloquent. I could recognise moments of compelling tenderness, and of desperate sadness too. Dance and movement pieces were well-rehearsed and evocative, with the whole thing set to a gently-rocking score that occasionally saw me bopping along. And I have to say – because I know this is difficult – one guy plays drunk very well.

In Fringe terms it’s an enormous cast (a fact that’s rammed home by what might just be Buxton’s longest-ever curtain call), and there’s an endearing openness to the whole production. But in the final analysis, I simply can’t recommend a show when I only understood one sentence out of four. My advice to the performers is simple: give up the struggle, throw up some captions, and sing your hearts out in French. We deserve to hear Demain l’Aurore in the language it was written for.

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These are archived reviews of shows from Buxton 2013.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.