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Bereavement: the Musical
Published on Thursday, 23 August 2012
3

3 stars

C venues - C (venue website)
Musicals
1-12, 14-27 Aug, 6:40pm-7:40pm
Reviewed by Ellen Macpherson

 Recommended for age 12+ only.

Bereavement: The Musical is exactly what it says on the tin – an ensemble cast singing and dancing their way through the befuddling aftermath of a loved one’s death. Admittedly it’s a fairly touchy subject, but that makes the premise all the more intriguing. And while there were a few bumps along the road, this show is ultimately a crowd-pleaser – endearingly awkward, full of almost-offensive black humour and at times incredibly moving. It’s not perfect, but it’s an entertaining time.

There’s no doubt that these folks from Cambridge have talent. There were numerous effective vocal and acting performances, although some were stronger than others. The writing too had highs and lows – the occasional cringe-worthy cliché was countered with some legitimately hilarious comedic highs. The highlights of the production came fairly early; including the particularly memorable musical piece that raises the question about whether it’s OK to (let’s put this delicately) “enjoy your own company” when your mother has died.

The problem with having an ensemble cast is that you have to find the right balance between storylines, and know how to stop before you squeeze in one person too many. Unfortunately in this case, I think the writers may have bitten off slightly more than they could chew. The production might have flowed a lot better had there only been three or four stories. The ambitious six that they tried to pack in resulted in a regrettably choppy end to the musical, and gave the audience very little time to connect to certain characters.

The show still seems a little rough around the edges, but perhaps that’s just the critic in me talking. The success of a show is, after all, in the way the audience reacts. Despite the ups and downs and some minor technical issues with music volume, Bereavement certainly got the popular vote. With such a novel concept, it won’t fail to put people in seats and entertain them while they’re there, and it’s definitely a fun way to spend an hour at the Fringe.

Still, with a bit more tightening and polishing, this could be a formidable example of new writing in musical theatre. There are some excellent stories in this production that genuinely strike a chord with those who have blundered their way through bereavement. If those stories were allowed to develop a little more, I think the production would have been transported to another level.

But really, all things considered, there’s almost nothing more hilarious than watching a character angst over feeling frisky when he’s meant to be in celibate mourning. Is it a cheap laugh? Maybe. Am I still giggling? You bet I am.

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