The Really Big Diamond

Aug 22 2014 | By More

✭✭✭✩✩   Flawed gem

TheSpace @ Venue 45 Tues 19 – Sat 23 August 2014

Deft, daft and likeable, The Really Big Diamond is an enjoyable show from Theatre Paradok which successfully overcomes some rather obvious flaws.

Esmond Sage as Percy Washington, heir to the family estate and secret. Photo: Theatre Paradok

Esmond Sage is Percy Washington, heir to the family estate and secret. Photo: Theatre Paradok

An original musical by composers and directors Harriet Braine and Noah Tomson, it is based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novella The Diamond As Big As The Ritz. Fitzgerald’s story of the family who live on the world’s biggest diamond, and the lengths they will go to in order to keep it secret, has something of the quality of a fable. A bittersweet fable, however, with its allegorical treatment of the American Dream and the twin obsessions of wealth and freedom.

The adaptation retains this feel, but removes some of the more acerbic elements – the references to slavery are toned down, for example – and as a result, can be a little twee at times.

The main problem with the show is that there does not seem to be any real reason why it is a musical. After an opening that suggests it is going to be a sung-though show, or at least dominated by music, songs seems to disappear from the narrative. When they reappear, they are in the form of fragments which delay the story raher than enhance it.

wearing its experimental heart on its sleeve

The singing is of a high standard, but the tunes themselves are somewhat conventional and not partcularly memorable, with the backing a little bashful. Fortunately, the rest of the production makes up for it. Inventive staging, clever direction, and good performances help to create a show that is hugely charming and not afraid of wearing its experimental heart on its sleeve.

Esmond Sage is goofily energetic as Percy Washington. John Bruce manages to invest central character John T. Unger with a buttoned-up likeability which makes his romance with Kismine (a believably ingenuous Zanny Jacobsen) all the more affecting.

Elsa van der Wal brings a forbidding stillness to the Washington matriarch Bridget, while Lucy Evans has a poise and grace as her daughter Jasmine.

It is really an ensemble piece, however, and the other cast members – Lauren Moreau, Jack Wrigley, Fiona Anderson and Jozette Allan – all play their part in this. There are some notable sequences featuring seemingly effortless movement, with one later scene showcasing Jay Jones’s choreography and the lighting design of Kirstyn Petras to particularly good effect.

Braine and Tomson manage to maintain a rhythm and flow to proceedings, but despite its accomplished nature the performance never really catches fire in the way it threatens to. Some more invention in sound design, rather than trying to make the play a musical when it clearly doesn’t want to be one, might have been the answer.

Nevertheless, this remains a tantalising production with a definite charisma.

Running time 50 minutes
The Space @ Venue 45, 63 Jeffrey St, EH1 1DH (Venue 45)
Tues 19 – Sat 23 Aug 2014
Daily at 6.35 pm
Tickets from:


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