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EDINBURGH 2019: BWW Review: MURDER BALLADS, Greenside @ Nicolson Square

Aug. 14, 2019  

EDINBURGH 2019: BWW Review: MURDER BALLADS, Greenside @ Nicolson Square

EDINBURGH 2019: BWW Review: MURDER BALLADS, Greenside @ Nicolson SquareGerry Smyth, writer and performer for Murder Ballads, is in many ways the best thing about this show. Smyth sits upstage, an old Wild Western grandpa muttering under his breath and strumming away on the guitar. What an image for Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds' 1996 album, which details a series of gruesome and passionate deaths.

The other three performers must do the acting and the singing. And in the main, they're not bad at either. Taking a genre album, adding in a narrative through-line and performing it - jukebox musical style - in track order is no mean feat. Hats off to The B Collective for this one.

Some of the performances are contrived; Thomas Galashan, in particular, has a knack for overplaying the sinister characters. At times, these kooky critters walk the line in favour of comic effect. But the converse is also true. Laura Connolly in the earlier songs is also overwrought, but her plethora of characters are far darker, far more deranged, and so suit Connolly's emphasised comedy skits.

Ellie Hurt's direction is equally well pitched for a slightly absurdist production such as Murder Ballads. The blocking and choreography are reminiscent of a song cycle opera, somewhat Wagnerian in both creation and dramatic pitch. There's a lot of emoting in each of the Cave tales, which themselves are carefully sewn into a narrative by Smyth. Hurt understands how to create a sense of occasion in each individual song.

Vocally, the cast are strong, but they tire nearer the end of the production. It's in many ways the reverse of the acting, which improves as the show proceeds. Connolly's voice comes out swinging, a powerful alto that conveys intensity and passion in its delivery. It's a pleasant contrast to Tom Wilson's gravelly tones.

As a late-night, light-hearted but dark comedy, Murder Ballads hits the nail on the head. It doesn't compete with Camille O'Sullivan's Nick Cave concert playing down the road, but it does highlight the lyrical prowess of a spectacular songwriter.

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From This Author Daniel Perks