Review: Brigadoon, King’s Theatre

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EVERYWHERE in life these days, appraisals loom large. There are annual evaluations of your progress at work, your airline wants to know about your in-flight experience, you go to the doctor and are asked to assess your treatment.

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And then a critic comes to the amateur show you’re putting on and weighs in with their tuppence-worth about how you should be doing it better; it’s all really quite overwhelming.

Yet reviews aren’t just there to get in the way of life, sometimes they’re necessary to remind you just how capable you really are. That it’s possible to aspire to more and, with a little work, achieve it.

Southern Light Opera are a case in point. The oldest amateur theatre company in Edinburgh, they’ve been doing something right all this time, yet they’re in need of a big nudge to push them out of complacency and propel them toward excellence.

All that is really preventing their current production of Brigadoon from gaining a few more reviewer’s stars is a lack of self-confidence and it starts at the top with director Laura Jordan Reed.

Reed has a steady cast at her disposal, a solid orchestra, and all manner of appropriate props, scenery and costumes, yet she needs to take charge more forcibly. She needs to ignore traditional staging conventions for Brigadoon and work more to the cast’s abilities, to push her actors further than they think they can go, to tighten up the chorus and give them more purpose on stage and remind the cast that acting is often more about reacting.

Musical director Peter Robinson needs more time to tame the orchestra, bring the wind section in line and workshop the chorus further, while choreographer Janice Bruce seems mostly to be battling to do her job inspite of a glut of extras on stage.

Outstanding performances by Eddie McDowell as Tommy, pictured, and Peter Tomassi as Jeff do much to propel the story along, while Kat Angus as Fiona and Judith Barron as Meg only need to brush up their physicality to reach the same level.

What disappoints are shabby details, the poorly written cardboard signs on market stalls, the Manhattan bar stand in need of a repaint, that suggest the company as a whole need to remind themselves of the love they have for staging a big show. It’s incredibly frustrating to watch a production fall short when all that’s needed is one last, enthusiastic push to take it to another level.

• Run ends Saturday