Prophecy

September 10, 2014 | By | Reply More

✭✭✩✩✩  Future potential

St Bride’s Centre  Tues 9 – Sat 13 Sept 2014

Raw around the edges and somewhat uneven in its storytelling, new musical Prophecy which has its world premiere run at St Brides all this week, nevertheless succeeds in bringing its hero, the Brahan Seer, to life.

Colum Findlay, Nicole Graham, Jennifer Good and David Bartholomew with the ensemble. Photo: Iain Mackintosh

Colum Findlay, Nicole Graham, Jennifer Good and David Bartholomew with the ensemble. Photo: Iain Mackintosh

This has all the makings of a solid musical offering as it reaches down into the life of the Brahan Seer. On Lewis in the Uig graveyard in 1650, young Kenneth Mackenzie  is magically gifted a seeing stone when he and his mother surprise a group of spirits.

Twenty years on, and Kenneth has become a local celebrity because of the power to see into the future that the stone has given him.

As a new musical written by a previously untested team – Iain Mackintosh, Ken Sutherland and Ian Turnbull were inspired to start on the project by Cameron Mackintosh’s Quest of a Highland Musical – there is much here to find good in, and the production team do well with what they have.

It is Kenneth’s relationship with the stone that provides the show’s most powerful theme. His short-term visions are all very well, such as when he sees his missing friend Donald sheltering in a cave around the headland.

When Kenneth and Donald have moved to the mainland in search of work it gets interesting. While working for the Seaforth family at their Brahan estate, the stone allows him to see a distant future for which he can have no frame of reference. These are visions of an apocalyptic hell in which vehicles power themselves and boats are seen floating along areas then dry land.

Known, now, as the Seer of Brahan, his downfall comes when he is commanded to perform his visions as entertainment for Lady Seaforth. His simple artlessness is not able to edit what he sees, and the cry of witchcraft is called to burn away her embarrassment at his revelations of her husband’s infidelities.

a naive gullibility

David Bartholomew gives the Seer a naive gullibility which feels quite in keeping with his downfall, in a performance which is stronger in its acting than musical representation. The score doesn’t really give him any big tunes to play with and he finds a voice which is most in keeping with the hesitant side of his character.

The big revelation of the production turns out to be Colum Findlay who plays Donald. Still only in the 6th year at Bathgate Academy, the 16 year-old has a strutting stage presence, particularly when leading his pal off in the knockabout number Sowing Our Wild Oats.

Liz Landsman with the ensemble. Photo: Iain Mackintosh

Liz Landsman with the ensemble. Photo: Iain Mackintosh

He can act too, bringing a sense of brooding guilt when he throws the stone away after Kenneth is attacked by robbers who have heard of its powers.

In terms of the musical itself, its biggest failing lies in its structure, which will have only become obvious when it got to the stage. It takes a while to get going, is over-reliant on dialogue and the forces of darkness and light could be wielded to much better effect.

Director Alan Borthwick brings some nice acting performances out of his cast. The likes of Simon Boothroyd as Donald’s father, Don Arnott as the Seaforth’s servant Lachlan and Liz Landsman as Lady Seaforth’s house keeper Seonaid, all do much to put some flesh on their characters and a little depth to the plot.

Jennifer Good as the Seer’s betrothed, Catriona, has got much more to give than she is given. The musical numbers between the two of them feel too formulaic to provide the intensity they could, while they are hampered, rather than liberated, by their dialogue.

In contrast, Fiona Main is given plenty to work with as the Lady Seaforth. Perhaps too much, as her Act 1 lament for the absence of her husband, Tonight a Lady, sets her in a human light which is perilously at odds with the draconian, deluded character built up by those around her. And, indeed, her position as the Seer’s nemesis.

Alan Borthwick has brought several regulars of the Edinburgh Gilbert and Sullivan Society with him. Suitably so in the portrayals of both the  philandering 3rd Earl of Seaforth (Machael McFarlane) seen in a vision in a Paris brothel, and the 7th Earl (Ian Lawson) lamenting the end of his line in a flash-forward, as he realises that the Seer’s final vision is about to come true.

Simon Hanson and James McCutcheon’s musical arrangements and orchestrations are given crisply authentic delivery all round by MD Linda Stewart.

And Alan Borthwick makes constructive use of limited resources in terms of staging, using projections to whisk the production back and forth through time as well as provide images of the Seer’s predictions which have come to pass in modern times.

Having got to this stage and shown the show’s potential, it would be excellent to see it taken up by another company. Maybe a young company such as Bedlam, which has both the recourses to give it a more adventurous production and also to examine its structure.

But what ever lies in store for the future of Prophecy, this is an entertaining production, and one which it feels quite special to be at as a world premiere.

Running time 2 hours 5 minutes, with one interval.
St Bride’s Centre, 10 Orwell Terrace, EH11 2DZ
Tue 9 – Sat 13 Sept. Daily: 7.30pm; Sat mat: 2.30pm.
Ticket £12 (£10 for parties of 5 or more) from the Usher Hall website: www.usherhall.co.uk/en-GB/shows/prophecy/info
Or phone: 0131 228 1155

Prophecy website – www.prophecymusical.co.uk
Prophecy on facebook: www.facebook.com/prophecymusical

ENDS

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