A Gallant Life at the Edinburgh Fringe

A Gallant Life

. In narrowing our options for productions to see at the Edinburgh Fringe, I was eager to make sure that there was a good mix to engage Seren. A Gallant Life from Not Cricket Productions immediately met the brief. Promising to bring the story of Muriel Thompson to life and classified with the musical genre, I overlooked the 12+ age recommendation given the appeal.

This brand-new musical creates Muriel’s story in a way which is engaging and offers an attention to detail, enabling a chapter of history to be translated and absorbed. Muriel Thompson was a motor-racing champion, suffragette, ambulance driver and decorated war veteran. Demonstrating throughout her life her ability to challenge the status quo. The musical takes us through Muriel’s life- from winning the first Ladies’ motor race, driving Emily Pankhurst as part of the WSPU, and playing a critical role in the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry as part of the First World War.

The story takes place between 1908 and 1918. The production arrangement successfully enables much ground to be covered during the 50 minute performance, without feeling rushed. Kate Stephenson’s writing conveys enough detail to allow the story to flow and the gravity of this piece of history to be felt.

The production utilises a range of devices to engage the audience. Not a musical in a traditional sense, the use of music was effectively used to change the pace and create further context, complementary to the period in which the story was based. The use on onstage musical instruments, played by the actors, offered an effective addition to the recorded music.

The cast of four brought to life twelve characters throughout the ten-year period. Each actor competent and assured in their roles. Hannah Forsyth in the role of Muriel Thompson conveyed both a steadfast character. She successfully allowed enough emotion to create a character which appealed to the audience. 

As well as conveying Muriel Thompson’s life, by necessity there was focus on the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry in World War I. And this provided so much more to the production than expected. Seren, at 9, was left in tears at the end. But in a way in which I was grateful.

Through the stories of four women and the relationship between one and a soldier, the realities of the war would brought the to fore. The script was sensitive and honest in portraying the realities. Employing a variety of techniques to convey the realities. From Muriel reading from her diary and hearing telegrams and radio broadcasts.  Momentum was brought to a difficult subject area to allow the story to be told. And in doing so, translated better than any book how the courage of British women and men, and their allies, allow us to live our lives with the freedom we take foregranted.

The musical has the ability to be a triumph. The writing and musical element is sound. There is enough humour to keep the 50 minute production as light-hearted as is needed. The four actors have created the strength of relationships which enable an audience to be drawn in to each of the characters they convey. Despite her tears, Seren scored the production a nine out of ten.

My only reservation is likely to be more to do with this being my first experience of the fringe. The staging and use of the space felt clunky. The space felt too small, the use of the aisle unnecessary to the piece.

To me this is a piece which adults can enjoy and offers so much to younger audiences. A Gallant Life which deserves to be remembered and celebrated.

A Gallant Life by Not Cricket Productions is at theSpace on North Bridge as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. You can catch the musical until Saturday 18th August 2018. 

Disclosure: We have media accreditation for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. All words and opinions contained are our own.

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