4 Star Rating
The Remarkables is Shotgun Theatre and Theatre with Teeth’s highly anticipated original musical, and, at the opening night, pretty much every seat in Kay House Cabaret was filled. Without a doubt, not a single audience member left dissatisfied with the self-proclaimed “musical comedy of epic proportions”. The audience were laughing from the very beginning, and, overall, it was this comedy and the quality of the original music which carried the performance beyond its limited storyline and into a very memorable piece of student theatre.
The plot centres around the Remarkables, a group of superheroes who are adored by the public (despite their idiocy and defects of character). Wesley Bench (Alex O’Loughlin), super-fan of the hero Captain Yeah (Freddie Walker), defies the wishes of his over-protective Auntie Biff (Charlotte Harris) to become the sidekick of the Remarkables – only to discover the corruption and narcissism that lies beneath their veneer of benevolence. What follows is the story of Wesley’s quest to restore order to Towntropolis, and to escape the clutches of consumerism and pride.
Co-writers Matt Smith and Sean Wareing have devised a script that had the audience in stiches through careful use of cliché, subtle wit, and downright absurdity. Often, some of the comedy that occurs behind the main action of the scene was performed so effectively as to nearly eclipse the dialogue or lyrics: for example, the lead with no dog, and the over-excitement of the ensemble were a couple of the most memorable moments. It is refreshing to watch a performance that is so self-consciously a show, and self-consciously a student show at that. Just as it advises in its final scenes, The Remarkables does not try to be anything it is not. In fact, the limitations of space and budget are acknowledged, accepted, and then incorporated into the humour of the show.
Hum Chandra’s orchestration, supplemented with lyrics by Matt Smith and Sean Wareing, was possibly one of the most professional elements of the show: the quality of the songs and theme music made it sometimes easy to forget that The Remarkables is a completely student-written musical. While the orchestra may not have performed to a perfect standard, it must be noted that the show has had limited rehearsal time, meaning that this can easily be rectified before its run at the Edinburgh Fringe this summer. Though the larger, more upbeat numbers are more in line with the general aesthetic of the show, some of the solo songs are extremely effective – notably the hilarious song about Captain Yeah sung by Kathryn Pridgeon, and the more heartfelt (but never fully serious) one by Charlotte Harris, both in the first act of the show.
All of the cast must be applauded for commitment to their characters, nearly all of which play on a well-known stereotype; Freddie Walker’s smouldering, narcissistic depiction of Captain Yeah was especially effective. Although cliché is the very core of the show, it does occasionally become stifling and somewhat unnecessary when it is not integral to the plot. However, I must concede that, if the play is only intended to be regarded at a very light-hearted, superficial level, and to be directed solely at the most childish and silly part of each audience member, then this creative decision is understandable.
Looking ahead, one of my greatest concerns with the musical is related to the character Dr Takeover (Fenella Twohig-Howell). Though this character was performed well, it must be noted that the underlying subject matter of OCD is perhaps not treated sensitively enough for an external audience. It must be said that the character’s story of how she washed her hands so hard that she was left with stumps did gain some laughs from the audience, but it also resulted in a certain unease for some individuals. Although it may sound like unnecessary political correctness to some, I believe that Shotgun Theatre and Theatre with Teeth should consider how this backstory would be received by people suffering with OCD, or even by individuals who have lost limbs or body parts themselves, before taking the show to the Edinburgh Fringe.
Overall, the cast and creative team behind The Remarkables seem like they have had an absolute blast with this production, and every audience member will surely find that the fun is contagious. While it is a self-acknowledged work-in-progress, The Remarkables shows a lot of potential: there is exciting music, a talented cast, and some real comedic gems. Even at this early stage in its development, it is well worth a watch.
The Remarkables has its second performance at Kay House at 19:30 this evening (17th March)