Horseplay – The Troy Musical

August 23, 2015 | By | Reply More

✭✭✭✩✩   Epic comedy

Greenside @ Infirmary Street (Venue 236): Fri 7 – Sat 22 Aug 2015

Rough-hewn but sparkling with energy and invention, there’s neigh-doot that Napier University Drama Society’s world premier of Horseplay The Troy Musical is a real hoot.

Packed with music of the kind that will be hummed by its audience on the way out of the building, Horseplay follows the history of the great Trojan wars, from the birth of Paris until his death at the sacking of Troy.

The Cast of Horseplay the Troy Musical. Photo: NUDS

The cast of Horseplay – the Troy Musical. Photo: NUDS

It’s a tale of death and destruction, of great passion and sweeping gestures. It’s a tale of history and the evolution of empires, of gods and kings, of blind retribution and undying love.

But it is told as raging comedy – narrated by Samuel Hogarth’s studied Homer with a degree of knowing disdain – which mixes in a multitude of references. Not as pithy as the Pythons, it still has a similar disregard for convention and eye for the easy joke.

Fraser Nickolls makes a handsome, honour-loving Paris, cast out and left to die by his parents King Priam (David Fraser) and Queen Hecuba (Cora McGookin) of Troy, due to a dire prophecy associated with his birth.

Brought up by shepherds, the honourable young man is called upon by Zeus to choose the fairest of the three goddesses Hera, Athena and Aphrodite, after Lisa Aref’s magnificently malevolent Erix – goddess of discord – gives him a golden apple with “for the fairest” written on it.

At which point, after scooting along nicely enough in a pretty standard, low-key kind of way it takes a big step up as Homer introduces the Judgement of Paris, not as a naked beauty pageant, but as an episode of Blind Date.

lusciously conniving

Which is a great call from writer Ross MacFarlane. And gives Francesca Penny as Hera, Hannah Neal as a vicious Athena and Samantha Jade Long as a lusciously conniving Aphrodite, the opportunity to offer Paris their wares in a platter of song. Aphrodite’s offer of the most beautiful woman in the world – and a trip to the funeral games in Troy – is enough to sway his hand.

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And so on, through a character-driven account of the Trojan Wars, which will no doubt have over-pedantic classicists moaning in their soup at a book which could have been written by Hello! magazine’s headline writers. And lyrics which draw down more clichés than you could shake a blind stick at.

Some of the acting is on the clumsy side, but it still drives the plot forward and directors Alexander Cook and Sam Eastop have brought out a few great turns from their performers.

Fraser’s Priam keeps the pot boiling as the story skips over decades – we know time has passed because of the cardboard signs MD Adam Kilgour holds up from the keyboards and, according to Priam, his expensive stage makeup has got more grey.

Laura Preston has a great voice and presence as Helen, the beauty who Paris chooses as his new wife. Josh McAuley gives King Menelaus a real edge as a boring, lunk-headed warrior, lumping around bashing people on the bonce. Indeed the seduction scenes in Sparta, usually glossed over in reinterpretations of the Iliad, actively add to the understanding of its story arc.

Georgia Rose Moran is superb in a big evangelical shout out as the seer, Calchas. In The Girl Must Die, a big rock’n’roll number that that owes not a little to Elvis in its performance, she tells Andrew Lees’ stiff King Agamemnon he must sacrifice his daughter to appease the goddess

With no microphones, all of three orange bucket chairs for the set – of the kind which have been disgracing church halls the length of the country since the 1970s – plastic helmets which look unnervingly Roman, and the most basic off-the-shoulder wraparound costumes, this has positively Spartan production values.

Which just makes the whole thing seem a lot more funny and endearing. The ensemble aren’t making up the numbers but add a necessary oomph to the chorus numbers and the additional music played by cast members stepping out of the chorus, rounds out Kilgour’s Keyboard.

Great fun and presented with just about enough panache to make it work as a musical.

Running time: 1 hour
Greenside @ Infirmary Street (Venue 236), 6 Infirmary Street, EH1 1LT
Friday 7 – Saturday 22 August 2015
Daily, not Sunday 16, 7.35pm.
Book tickets on the EdFringe website: Horseplay – The Troy Musical

ENDS

 

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