Fringe Theater is London’s equivalent of New York’s off-off-Broadway scene. During this trip, I have had the opportunity to see two shows that qualify as fringe: Titanic and In the Heights. I’m glad that I got to go to two so I could compare and contrast my experiences.
The first show I saw was In the Heights. I discussed this show a little bit in my post I Need Antihistamines. As I mentioned, In the Heights was an alley style show. I’ve never seen any show done alley style before. This style has its obvious drawbacks. Not everyone in the audience can always see the actors’ face. Someone will inevitably have a back turned to them at many points throughout the performance. But, I thought the staging of this show was very successful. I never felt as though I was missing any part of the story. The actors did a really phenomenal job of moving into windows and ensuring that every member of the audience felt seen and included.
The story was modern, even incorporating rap into a number of the songs. It felt very urban and portrayed some of the struggles that certain ethnicities live with on a daily basis. It is definitely a story worth being told. As with most musicals, it ends happily, with the promise of hope. A community that once found its members fighting for their own selfish desires ends with brothers and friends banding together to bring change for the better. There was some really great musical talent in this cast, and , for the most part, I thought the actors did a great job of showing the audience their emotions through turbulent times. However, one bad actress will ruin the whole bunch. The woman who played the hairdresser drew entirely too much attention to herself by “mugging,” intentionally hinting to the audience that they should laugh or find the line funny. It was over the top and unnecessary, and unfortunately, tainted the color of the entire production.
The show was very lively with colorful set and light design. Overall though, it wasn’t my favorite show. Although, I am glad that I did take the chance on seeing a second fringe show:
Shawn told us this morning that if you get lost on the way to the theater, then it counts as a Fringe show. I got lost on the way to this theater. It was very small and was tucked into this little shopping center down a covered alley, off the beaten path. It was a small black box proscenium space. I splurged for the stall (floor) seats, but there really wasn’t a bad seat in the house.
I already discussed some of my thoughts about this performance in my post Drizzle fo’ Shizzle. This is one of the most successful small theater performances I have ever seen. Absolutely fantastic. The size of the theater is not at all a comment on the talent of the actors. If that were so, this cast would be selling out on the West End for months. This show definitely hits my top five favorites for the trip. As I said, this cast was the most vocally talented of all the shows that I have seen. There was one amazing soprano that stood out to me in particular. When the whole cast faced front and sang at full voice, it created an incredible wall of song, absorbing everyone in the audience into the story and the emotion. This is not the story of Jack and Rose that we all know and love. This musical is a grand tribute to all of the people who were affected by this tragedy, no matter what their socio-economic status. The set was simple, the costumes were period accurate, and the lighting served to emphasize dramatic moments.
I’m glad that I had the opportunity to see some Fringe shows during this trip. It just goes to show that good theater can be produced no matter the venue, the budget, or the amount of advertising. Discovering hidden gem theater like this is a wonderful and blissful experience.