Fringe 2008, Blue Note Bar
Feb 14-17 | Reviewed by Helen Sims

THE PROGRAMME told me: “The Journey is a song and dance cycle that explores the human life span.” I was warned at the door that it did not fit any genre neatly. The score was composed by Suzy Hawes, an experienced composer of music for past theatrical productions that have featured in the Fringe, such as The Bowler Hat and After Kafka. It is performed by a group of singers/musicians, with two of them doubling as dancers/actors as well. They file into the Bluenote Bar, barefoot and in evening dress and take the stage, launching into their first number, “Paradise Introduction”. They proceed to offer up a show that is far more sophisticated than the usual fare of the venue. He several drunks present quickly leave.

The show is split into two halves. The first half is “The Journey”, featuring twelve songs charting the different passages of human consciousness. Then after a short intermission they return, clad in black for the more ‘up beat’ second half entitled “After the Journey”, which seems to be made up of unrelated pieces of music composed by Hawes. The songs and performers are all very earnest – I thought it would have been nice to see a bit more of the humour that crept into my favourite number, “Microbiology of Love”. At times the songs felt a little like a soundtrack, needing more of a narrative in between them to make the performance more coherent. I wondered if, as a future development, the songs could complement monologues, so that the first part of the show could be preformed without the need for the miscellaneous songs of the second half.

The performers all seem like highly talented musicians. A real highlight was the singing of Liz Kirkman. Her strong, seductive voice carries several numbers and harmonises beautifully with Hawes on others. I wasn’t entirely sure about the dancing - at times it added to the performance, at others it seemed slightly aimless and a tad indulgent. However there is no doubting the commitment of all involved in the performance.

Despite the quality of the show, it is let down by the venue. Despite the excellent service of the bar staff, the Bluenote is not really suited to a performance that requires silence during and between numbers. Its lurid décor seems out of step with the tone of the show. I’m not sure if there was a lack of choice for the venue of this show, or if it was just a poor choice, but I felt the show deserved a better setting. It also deserves a much bigger audience than the 10 or so people watching on the night I went. The Journey is a chance to see something a little out of the ordinary in the Fringe.