Paper Hearts – Edinburgh Festival Fringe – Underbelly Med Quad

2016PAPERHE_APJPaper Hearts continues at Underbelly Med Quad (Venue 302), until 29 August.

Star rating: four stars ★ ★ ★ ★ ✩

As we all know by now, great musicals are never written – they are always RE-written. Paper Hearts has been in the process for some four years now and it’s nearly there.

The story is reminiscent of Kiss of the Spider Woman meets You’ve Got Mail/The Shop Around the Corner. Our hero, Atticus Smith, works in a small bookshop but has aspirations to become a successful author. He’s writing a novel set in Russia during the Cold War and the characters from the book are as real and present to Atticus as real people. His ‘love life’ in the real world comes crashing down via a text message – his real world clearly lacks the romance of the fictional world.

His continuing search for love and success as an author becomes mixed with the world of globally successful online retailing, mimicking The Shop Around the Corner plot for today’s technology.

There are some moments of excellence in this production: several very strong songs and inventive choreography on a stage the size of a handkerchief. The cast is brimming with talent; several playing instruments in the onstage band (the band’s following of the action deserves praise – nice detail). The distinctive change in style of music for the ‘real world’ and the ‘novel world’ are perfectly pitched and some of the characterisations give a nice resonance.

There is an anachronism in that Atticus uses a typewriter to work… It is true that the typing sound is a great motif and sets the opening of the show perfectly. It may be that there is still a battle in Liam O’Rafferty’s head in creating Paper Hearts: does this show belong in the 20th rather than the 21st century?

The story does need more refining to reach the standard of the music, ‘This is My Time’ is a particularly strong song. If the book can match the same high level, this would be a very successful show in the making. Good work!

Fiona Orr

Moon Rock Productions

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