Writers: Joe Harmston and Ray Goudie
Director: Joe Harmston
Reviewer: Nicole Evans
Beginning its life at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival back in 2011, new musical The Prodigals kicked off The Belgrade’s autumn season this evening. A modern take on the tale of The Prodigal Son, it is a heart-wrenching musical combining the trials and tribulations of army life with the wilderness that is rock and roll stardom.
Colonel Luke Gibson (Simon Bowman), leader of the Scottish regiment, wants nothing more than for his two sons to follow in his footsteps and serve the regiment that his family have served in for generations before them. Captain Mike Gibson is more than happy to oblige and is proud to serve his father and represent his country, Kyle however, is just tagging along for the ride and dreams of a life of stardom. After demanding his inheritance from his late mother when he receives a call from a record label, Kyle chooses fame over his military family and heads off on tour with his band mate and best friend, Kelly. It isn’t long before the pair shoot to stardom but it’s far from the easy, care-free life Kyle imagined fame would bring. With the money rolling in, the pair turn to drugs and Kyle soon finds himself dependant on heroin to mask the difficult reality of being a star. The harsh reality of his mistakes are clear when tragedy strikes, and Kyle’s come down to earth makes a very big bang. Lifeless, lost and with shattered illusions, Kyle returns home to face his father, and the community he disrespected. Will his brother be able to forgive him? How will his father adequately split his love between two very different sons? Will the regiment ever accept him back as one of them?
The stage looks far from spectacular at first glance, and a multi-purpose, metal mesh, projection screen box provides the majority of the set but along with the use of atmospheric lighting and inventive movements from the cast we are convincingly transported from battle to Brits in a drum beat. It is quickly clear that the twelve strong cast are more than capable of providing the rest. From explosive street dance routines to disciplined battle scenes, they manage to portray the strict morals of army life side by side with the slightly looser counterparts of modern culture, while succeeding to show the less obvious similarities of the two. Greg Oliver as Kyle, captures both the vibrancy and vulnerabilities of his character with perfection and his performance pours out emotion from start to finish while Sam Ferriday as Mike provides a perfectly regimented portrayal of the seemingly invisible son who just seeks his father’s recognition. Sarah Watson’s performance as Kelly effortlessly flows from that of an innocent young girl, to the all too common eventuality of an impressionable rising star, and her vocal performances quite literally raise the roof. With Bowman on hand to bring all the characters and emotions together in his central, fatherly rôle, this really is a faultless show.
Special mention has to go to the Heroin Fairies. The idea of using three, hot pink clad air hostesses to portray the heroin ‘trips’ is genius. Despite the obvious comedy in the sketches, the whole concept successfully tackles the highs and lows of drug use in a family friendly way.
The Prodigals really does pack a mean punch. Challenging modern issues, with modern ideas and with modern new music, it is both relevant and realistic.
An outstanding musical that would already be worthy of a West End stage. I command you to go and see it. Ladies, one tip; wear waterproof mascara.
Runs until 14th September.
Picture: Keith Pattison