Atlantic – America and the Great War – Edinburgh Festival Fringe – Assembly Mound, Rainy Hall

Atlantic – America and the Great War, performed by students from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, continues at the Assembly Mound, Rainy Hall until 26 August (even dates only).

Star rating: three stars ★ ★ ★ ✩ ✩

At its heart, this show tells the story of two black American sisters, separated by the Great War in Europe.

The promising opening of the show, with the ensemble’s placement in the repeated ‘Oceannnnnn’ lyric, transports the scene to a ship crossing the Atlantic – the murmuration of sound captures the waves and the lighting evokes the scene beautifully.

Jane (Mariah Copeland) is the sister leaving America for Europe to work as a nurse in the war, and is charmed by Jesse (Neal Davidson) while crossing the ocean.

The promise made for a creative, original work by the opening number is somewhat reduced by increasingly derivative songs and an unclear narrative.

As the sister left behind, Annabelle (Abigail Stephenson), refuses to accept that Jane is dead – insisting she is missing and needs to be found. She teams up with Jesse to try and find her sister.

A series of scenes depict her train journey to New York, punctuated by chorus numbers.  Stephenson is a most promising performer, but often battles to be heard above the ensemble and the on-stage band. Lyrics are often indistinct.

The plot development becomes rather obscure in a stream of ensemble song and dance sequences, often in counterpoint. The book could be developed to improve this large passage of the show, or perhaps some choices need to be made concerning what the show is actually about to re-focus the straying storyline.

Frustration is compounded when the end of the show comes rushing towards us in a most hurried manner.

Annabelle has a most touching aria at the end of the show, reaffirming that there is both talent and potential here.

The talent and potential could be better served with crisper direction, judicial editing and a more closely-focused plot.

Fiona Orr

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