Stop the Train (The Musical) – Edinburgh Festival Fringe – Paradise in Augustines

2016STOPTHE_P1Stop the Train (The Musical) at Paradise in Augustines (Venue 152), until 28 August.

Star rating: three stars ★ ★ ★ ✩ ✩

To be fair, this show is trying to cover a lot of ground in 90 minutes. The pace is good and keeps us interested, chiefly through the assured direction (Owen Phillips). Inspired by a real-life incident where one individual on a train had a rant at his fellow passengers, Rick Guard (co-writer with Phil Rice) was taken aback at the lack of reaction – not a flicker of interest. This set him to thinking about what would get attention. He settled on a suicide bomber.

The disaffected individual in Stop the Train appears to be a cross between Columbo and Victor Meldrew –he clearly relishes making people feel uncomfortable. In a crumpled raincoat over a suit literally coming apart at the seams, Richard Ely as Eric soliloquises about how people are obsessed with personal technology: “Are you afraid to be alone?/To cling to the ring of a mobile phone.”

The show consists of finding out about the lives of the six passengers on the train – each expressed as a ‘fantasy number’. There is an ensemble of glamorous dancing girls who appear to take us into the realms of the dreams close to each passenger in turn. These are choreographed in minute detail (Lindsay Pollard).

Cleverly, each time the action returns to the carriage, the seats are rearranged so that we feel as if we are on the other side of the train.

The fantasy numbers for each of the characters run through a formulaic process – which is a pity as there is scope for more subtlety and wit in the renditions.

The music is strong and carries a fair amount of merit in the harmonies, particularly in the finale. However, the lyrics are far more weak and sadly rather predictable, e.g. “That’s a silly dream/The fat cat boss that got the cream.”

The characters are stereotypical: the book certainly needs more development to give the characters more depth. The actress playing Amy is a cut above the others in the cast as she shows more light and shade in her portrayal; her performance and sense of ‘being in the moment’ is admirable.

The premise is interesting and the show would benefit from a certain amount of development.

 Fiona Orr

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