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Active Virgin
Published on Thursday, 23 August 2012
3

3 stars

C venues - C (venue website)
Musicals
1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 15, 17, 19, 21, 23, 25, 27 Aug, 12:00pm-1:00pm
Reviewed by Lee Zhao

 Recommended for age 12+ only.

The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (the new name for The Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama) are once again on the Fringe with a new musical from Fringe favourites, John and Gerry Kielty, the team behind Wasted Love last year. Active Virgin (see what they did there?) is set in a dystopian world where society has become fixated with physical appearance and the perfect body image. The satire of gym culture goes straight for the jugular, pulling no punches.

The musical does take a long time to warm up, and ironically, this is because the opening is perhaps too energetic. With the acting and choreography turned up to eleven, a lot of the subtler punch-lines missed their mark with audience. Even I admit I must have missed one or two jokes in the sea of pantomime and ham-fisted action. There was, quite literally, too much happening on the stage while I was still struggling to find my bearings.

The hyperactive choreography also meant the songs had to allow for most of the chorus being short of breath for a good part of the hour. There are very few standout numbers, and a lot of the score is sung or spoken in unison. The main characters of the musical, the Virgin (Leah Scott), the Doctor (Shane O'Regan) and his assistant (Amy Brewer) are far more sedate – and yet these characters are not given any notes to sing. I originally thought that maybe the parts were written with non-singers with mind, but one short duet at the very end torpedoed that theory.

In general, then, the show failed to showcase the vocal talent I suspect was available. However, much credit must go to Andrea Grody, who single-handedly aced the delightfully ambitious backing score – including a slew of sound effects being played live on the keyboard.

And halfway through the show, I finally tuned into what Active Virgin was trying to be: a loving musical homage to a popular BBC show. I am still not sure whether this delayed eureka moment was intentional, or caused by me over-thinking the first half of the show, but by the end I was just happily going along with this off-the-wall caper. Though the story is a bit silly and the side-plot justifying the second half of the title is perhaps unnecessary, the show is certainly not supposed to be taken too seriously; after all, there is good section of society that should probably visit a gym.

Active Virgin is an unapologetic B-musical; as a harmless hour of fun, it does all the right things.

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These are archived reviews of shows from Edinburgh 2012.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.

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