Deputy Culture Editor – Theatre
Epilogue theatre, the charity-centric brain-child of seasoned Cecilian members has opened their season with a real catch. Their most recent production of Big Fish, a musical adaptation of the Tim Burton classic, was a reassuring delve into heartfelt narratives, kindly characters, and the expectable warm embrace of the 2000s musical that, despite its non-stop resurrection, always proves for a fun night out.
To start with the few faults: the production, staged in the Scottish Youth Theatre’s building was too large and aspirational for the meager staging it received. The live band, (while incomparable and highly talented) was wedged inorganically into the action, nullifying all natural approaches to the acting with their constant, poorly integrated presence. This is an utter shame: the music of Big Fish is as beautiful and gripping as the narrative and both actors and musicians could have achieved an extremely transcendent moment if their dynamics had been fused together, rather than forced. On the side of physicality, the choreography and direction pointed the actors listlessly into tropes that they seemed to ache in, songs were crippled by rigid standstills and rather than integrating fluid movement the production employed an unfortunately expectable nuance to their dance. These critiques, however, fall flat against the company’s rendition of “I Don’t Need a Roof”, an eleventh hour ballad in which actress Rachel Hunter defied all pre-established semiotics, breaking the convention and the hearts of everyone in the room with her astounding talent.
It truly was the actors that made Big Fish the smash that it was. Those who truly put their own spin on the direction given to them shone the brightest, particularly the talents of Peter Robson, Goose Masondo, and Rachel Hunter. These three combined astounding vocals (Miss. Masondo’s solo was a particular treat) with a truly authentic approach to their characters and came away with gold. The duo of Robson and Hunter were heartrendingly sweet, impeccably compatible both vocaly and emotionally. Mr. Robson was a stand alone, his capacity for emotion was utterly astounding and he carried the majority of the production with a perfect encapsulation of the beloved character of Edward Bloom. Miss Hunter, as mentioned previously, was an absolute privilege to watch, her relationships seemed so lovingly cultivated and nurtured: she had the audience in the palm of her hand from her first entrance. The actors portraying Josephine and Will, played by Michael Pellman and Rosie Shaw, were unfortunately just unable to keep up with the talent of their older counterparts, pacing slightly behind the emotional output of Mr. Robson and Miss Hunter and trying to compensate with musical talent. These attempts were fortunately levied up by an astoundingly energetic ensemble who kept the production on its toes through an avalanche of group numbers and who constantly delivered great physicality and improvisation. (Very big shout out the Karl the Giant and his puppeteers, the definitive crowd favorite).
What Epilogue needs now is an overhaul of professionalism: while Big Fish was amazing, it is a bit of a plateau. After the phenomenal success of their last production, Godspell, people have come to expect a certain level of excellence from this collective. It is not just enough to deliver a sterling performance, they now need to outdo their previous successes. It’s now time for the Epilogue production team to decide whether this is just an artistic outlet for friends to make theatre, or if it’s time to expand this company into the groundbreaking beacon of creativity that this reporter believes it can be.