EDINBURGH 2014 - BWW Reviews: ALBA - A NEW SCOTTISH MUSICAL, theSpace@Surgeons Hall, August 16th 2014
A Stirling lad turned city trader returns home from London on the death of his father and embarks on a voyage of personal discovery in this new Scottish musical. Trying to scatter his father's ashes and make it back to London in time for a big interview, a manic pixie dream girl type and a trip into nature conspire to make Roddy question what he really wants out of life.
Accompanied by a folk-inspired score, it's a familiar style and story, reminiscent of the hit musical Once, Stephen Greenhorn's Passing Places and even the famous Tennent's Lager "Caledonia" advert. The music is pleasant enough, but the lyrics are overly narrative, lacking any real sense of poetry. Indeed, some of the most effective moments are the non-musical portions such as Roddy's opening musings on how a single sheet of A4 can have so much emotional weight. One area where the music did shine was the clever inclusion of sound effects, with the likes of phone ringtones played live on flute and fiddle.
The cast of four actor-musicians fairly zoom about the stage, changing scenes, characters and instruments in the blink of an eye as Finn Anderson's effective direction keeps everything moving smoothly at a good pace. Particularly impressive are Rosemary Stanford and Lawrence Boothman who play between them all of the show's supporting characters from cranky bosses to taxi drivers with a penchant for Neil Diamond.
It's nice to see new Scottish musical theatre and, particularly, Scottish music being featured in a show. However, the show's 50 minute running time means that the various topics of Roddy's relationship with his father, the budding romance and the independence allegory don't all have time to fully develop. Alba is a show that is finding itself, much like its protagonist, and with deeper exploration of these themes and some rethinking of the lyrics, there is the potential here for something greater.
Alba - A New Scottish Musical runs at theSpace@Surgeons Hall until August 23rd.