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FRESHER the Musical
Published on Sunday, 14 August 2011

4 stars

Pleasance Dome (venue website)
3-14, 16-29 Aug, 3:50pm-5:00pm
Reviewed by Lee Zhao

 Recommended for age 16+ only.

FRESHER the Musical was a surprise musical hit on the Fringe last year. Why a surprise? Well, no-one seemed to expect a show with a name of the form 'Weird Noun: The Musical' to be any good.  The biggest reason it worked is that FRESHER the Musical deals in the coarse language and immature humour that made things like Skins and The Inbetweeners a success. You know: the sort of material anyone who started university in the last ten years will lap up; the sort of material everyone else hopes they have grown out of finding funny.

I would say over eighty percent of the packed Queen Dome were students, and most of them were sniggering simply over the use of the word 'chunder'. In fact, FRESHER the Musical is full of one-liners and catchphrases desperate to go viral and start trending; 'Superman that ho' is one that particularly comes to mind.

All this immaturity isn't going to appeal to everyone. However, although the drinking game scene in the first ten minutes may seem crude and predictable, it paints a realistic picture of the freshers' experience. As sad as it may be, the immaturity is why we students (yes, even though Fresher's Week is a scarily distant five years in the past, I'm still a student) lap it up.  The lowest common denominator is not that far from the truth.

But behind all the alcohol and sex, there is a serious message and mature heart. Though the characters may at first appear no more than stereotypes, they eventually reveal themselves to be quite deep and well-thought-through by the writers. I'm sure many will know someone at university (or in other walks of life) very similar to one, if not all, of the characters.  It was therefore a little saddening that, in a heartfelt scene when one of the characters finally finds the courage to reveal to rest of the group he is gay, the audience burst into nervous giggling.  It's really not meant to be a joke!

The music too is more than an afterthought. There is one particularly ingenious duet where the lyrics are sung over spoken lines, and both sets of dialogue are equally worth listening out for. And the show is mature enough to realise it is very hard for anything to be taken that seriously when sung, so when the themes become heavier, the music is dispensed with and we get a scene of straight dialogue.

If I have one small moan about the singing, it's that there is a tendency to overly belt out some of the long held notes, which in a relatively intimate venue has the effect of being more shouting than singing. Despite that quibble, I can safely say that - with relatable characters and situations - FRESHER the Musical easily retains its cult status.

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