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Published on Friday, 12 August 2011

4 stars

Greenside (venue website)
7-13 Aug, 8:30pm-9:30pm
Reviewed by Lee Zhao

 Recommended for age 12+ only.

Nunsense is a farce. There's no other way to describe the plot. Even the setup is ridiculous: fifty-two of the Little Sisters of Hoboken are sent to Heaven when their cook accidentally poisons them and, with the Reverend Mother caught with her hand in the collection plate, the nuns are unable to bury the sisters temporarily stored in their freezer. To resolve this crisis, they stage a variety song and dance show to raise the required capital... and that's where the musical begins!

Last year, when I went to review the Norfolk Youth Music Theatre, I was blown away by the maturity of the teenage cast – and this year's production is no different. I am still amazed the senior Reverend Mother was played not by a middle aged woman, but by Alex Baldry, a child of the nineties! In fact all five actresses easily inhabit characters well beyond their years.

Nunsense is also challenging in that it calls on the singers to dance, as well as act and be funny. I was very impressed to see an excellent stab at the ballet and tap sequences, rather than cutting them for this abridged show. However, this seems to have come at a price, as the vocals didn't quite reach the perhaps unfairly high standards I've come to expect from this company. On occasions, the words were drowned out by the accompaniment, and it's also unfortunate that in the final fifteen minutes the thumping soundtrack of the other show at Greenside bleeds into the venue.

But my biggest gripe is the length. The original off-Broadway musical was over two hours long, and it has been trimmed here to fit into a one hour slot. Although a good majority of songs have survived, the dialogue in between has largely been dispensed. Apart from the obvious change to the pace, it's also a shame because you lose the wonderfully playful banter amongst the group.

Mainly though, I wish it had been a bit longer because I didn't want the show to finish – and not just because I didn't want to face a walk across town in the dreadful Edinburgh weather. By the end, the cast were really getting into their stride. The accents had settled, the comic timing was spot-on and the five members of the NYMT had turned into a slick comedy unit, milking every bit of gold out of the outrageous plot. I left wanting more, much more. And in that respect, Nunsense does a lot of things right.

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