Hemmed In

Aug 18 2015 | By More

✭✭✩✩✩   Too limited

theSpace on the Mile: Sat 8 – Fri 28 Aug 2015

There are some highly promising singers in New Celts and Lost Lock’s all-female musical Hemmed In, who are given real chances to shine in a production that is otherwise hampered by callowness and naïveté.

Four young women are released on licence from Cornton Vale on the condition that they complete a fashion design course under the tutelage of a model and designer who has conveniently recently been convicted.

The cast of Hemmed In. Photo: Lost Lock

The cast of Hemmed In. Image: Lost Lock Video

So the title not only refers to prison put also to dressmaking. But – you guessed it – what really ‘hems them in’ is their own limited outlook. A creeping sense of dread quickly dawns – however well-meaning Ruth Cobbin’s musical may be, it has many of the elements that put people off the whole genre.

The tunes, while pleasant enough and occasionally interestingly Scottish-inflected, are not sufficiently differentiated. The lyrics, meanwhile, go round and round the same ‘make the change/be all you can be’ sentiments that are all too common in this kind of production.

Furthermore, they seem to have no relevance to any kind of realistic problems such characters would face. Indeed, it is potentially dangerous. The suggestion that people are denied opportunities only by their personality rather than external forces could be excused as a young person’s dream of self-fulfilment, but could also be seen as reactionary. It is all a fantasy, as politically astute as a marshmallow, and only a slightly darker plot development concerning one of the characters prevents a terminal case of schmaltz.

too innocently pixieish

The performers also have problems suggesting they could really be these people. It all seems more like a finishing school than a gaggle of damaged, potentially dangerous individuals.

Ashleigh More’s Sunny is winningly perky but far too innocently pixieish to convince as someone who suffers from violent rages. Similarly, Cara McKinley (Bobby) and Sarah Ford (Christine) do not have the necessary steel and darkness for their roles, although Ford does display an interesting melancholic side.

More successful is Samara Bell’s vapid Rachel, and it is accordingly much easier to believe in some kind of development for the character. Naomi Stirrat, as Kate the handily placed supermodel, is the only one who hints at a real darkness. Two directors -Donna Soto-Morettini and Iain Davie – are credited, and while the staging is never less than competent, perhaps a more individual focus might have helped.

What saves the production is the standard of the singing. All five are strong, but the highlights are when they are singing in harmony, with strongly Scottish accents, in a way that is clever and apparently effortless. There is a whiff of transcendence here that is enough to make you forget about the ‘answer is within you’ self-help nonsense that is being peddled, and suggests that all concerned have a great deal of musical promise.

Running time 1 hour 5 minutes
theSpace on the Mile (Venue 39), 80 High St, EH1 1TH
Sat 8 – Fri 28 Aug 2015
Even dates only at 5.30 pm
Book tickets on the EdFringe website: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/hemmed-in


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