The Chess Game Review | Annals of Edinburgh Stage
Apps, Happiness, Casablanca and The Chess Game
When Two Queens Go to War… Rebecca Gilhooley and Julia Carstairs in FCT’s The Chess Game. Photo © Mark Gorman
Start it up and lets go! Day One of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe dawned bright and clear. No monsoon, no rain, just a crisp morning with light wind and sunny skies.
A perfect day for a play called Happiness, it would seem, at a sparkling new venue to boot: The Playhouse at Hawke and Hunter Green Room. Good timing too, for the Tron Theatre’s revival of Casablanca, the Gin Joint Cut – which arrives in Edinburgh with a slew of four and five star reviews under its belt. And to round off the day, a visit to the first Edinburgh Local Hero, with the fabby FCT’s The Chess Game, at Inverleith.
Finally the Local Heroes, Forth Children’s Theatre. I always enjoy reviewing their productions but was slightly concerned to be there on first night of The Chess Game, particularly when the company has just said good-bye to a very successful generation of young performers.
No worries, though, The Chess Game was excellent. Not perfect yet, but the voices will mature and grow in confidence over the years, as will the acting. There are several in the company who need to learn to speak up and out, as the mumbled spoken lines into their boots. Director Vic Laing could also have improved some of the blocking. He left several of the more diminutive members of the company stuck out of sight at the back in big ensemble numbers and tableaux which should have given everyone a chance to shine.
That said, the young company tackled this piece about war, redemption and taking responsibility with real maturity. There are several very problematic moments which they made pass by with a natural fluidity to their pacing. Their musical performances pushed right to the edge of their abilities too – well beyond their comfort zones – and they made the tricky arrangements sound simple.
Of course they do have some cracking support, and those responsible for the wardrobe did an excellent job. The live band were crisp and supportive under the leadership of Iain MacDonald who wrote the words, music and lyrics of the show – which FCT first performed back in 1984. A thought-provoking treat. And I found myself humming the tunes on the way home.
Thanks Tom for a very constructive review. Out of interest what did you feel were the very problematic moments?
You’re right it is a very young cast and a lot of thought has to go in to the productions we present. But we feel this is an under presented production with a lot of merit that really suits an ensemble cast.
Thanks for commenting Mark, and thanks very much for letting me link to your pics!
Those “problematic” moments might better have been described ones which are “tricky to get right and very easy to get wrong” – I’m thinking of moment of the on-stage kiss, for example.
Then there is the moment when the lead white pawn and the lead black pawn confront each other on the battle field. Hayley Scott’s white pawn is asked by Liam Thomson’s black pawn why she hates him, she says: “Because you are black”. I thought that they did that scene superbly, it didn’t feel forced and I was quite in the moment of the exchange.
This was a great choice of production for the cast, I thought. My review will be in the Edinburgh Evening News on Monday, so look out for that!