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Towards the Moon
Published on Friday, 24 August 2012
4

4 stars

C venues - C (venue website)
Musicals
2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 22, 24, 26 Aug, 12:00pm-1:00pm
Reviewed by Lee Zhao

 Recommended for age 12+ only.

Greenock, Inverclyde. Not exactly the first place that comes to mind as a perfect setting for a musical. We follow the life of a struggling, unemployed writer, Bobby Rafferty, whose life is changed forever following an epiphany during a near-death experience. I suspect the character of Bobby, complete with an authentic accent that would make non-natives reach for the subtitles (were it a film), may be an avatar of writer Andrew McGregor.

Simply put, Bobby (Ryan Paterson) is an anti-hero. With clear character flaws, he comes into conflict with characters that would be the leads in other stories. For the tale to be engaging, we have to side with Bobby, and so the fate of the musical rests heavily on the shoulders of the actor and his portrayal. And Paterson duly delivers a sterling performance, playing Bobby with warmth and sympathy. I could not help but be charmed, despite the stereotypically stern Glaswegian exterior. It’s such a shame, then, that his singing voice could not quite reach such dizzy heights.

His close friend, Mags (Kylie McMahon), is the sort of character that only seems to exist in fiction: an easy-going, patient, bohemian young woman, who has travelled the world, seen everything and has acquired more life experience than everyone else put together. The sagely wisdom she dispenses would solve every plot conflict, if only the others would listen.

And that, for me, is the biggest problem with the book. With Mags basically spelling out his problems, Bobby's journey of self-discovery is less an epic voyage, more a quick stroll down the Royal Mile. All he has to do is stop and listen to the people around him. It is possible that the need for a quasi-omniscient character to quickly resolve the tensions is due to the time constraint; if so, Towards the Moon should have a ninety minute running time and not sixty. I would personally love to see the book expanded by a few scenes to allow Bobby to recognise his flaws without his genre-savvy friend.

The music was, for the most part, gorgeous. However, I felt the keyboard was over-amplified, at times drowning out the singers when they were moving around the stage and not projecting straight at the audience. The score was at its best during the intimate moments, with some wonderfully atmospheric harmonies. When the piano fell silent, and the small cast evoked an acoustic campfire song, I was transported for a brief flicker to somewhere magical. I also applaud the decision not to overload the ending with saccharine romantic clichés; after all, this is Greenock, not Hollywood.

It’s unfortunate that the protagonist in Towards the Moon shares the same name as that of Company (which The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland are also brining to the Fringe this year), because there will be unfair comparisons with Sondheim's classic. But overlooking such superficial similarities, this is a thoroughly charming original musical. The story, though flawed, has great potential, much like Bobby himself.

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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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