Olly Novello’s The Verge of Forever is a fatally confused piece at The Other Palace
“Circling round and around”
There’s something bizarrely admirable in a show giving itself a subtitle that seemingly contradicts its very self. You might think that The Verge of Forever – The Drama School Audition Musical would be a musical about drama school auditions but instead, it’s more of a song cycle about an overblown teenage romance. More significantly, it is a sense of confusion that permeates the whole show, as it can’t quite settle on what it wants to do
Olly Novello’s two-hander follows teenagers Leo and Marie as they meet-cute through auditioning for drama schools and try to pursue a long-distance relationship with the added strife of a pandemic intervening as well. But for all the musical theatre show posters adorning the set, this aspect of the production is almost incidental and what is left is a rather regressive approach to relationships between a supremely ill-matched pair.
Added into that is the issue around its format. A song cycle allows a disparate collection of tracks to be pulled together without the need for a book whereas a musical suggests narrative progression of some sort will occur. Here, Novello opts mostly for the former, but then has his characters narrate inbetween songs, filling in plot details. It is neither one nor the other and mainly highlights that the songs aren’t fulfilling their purpose sufficiently.
Gerry Tebbutt’s production folds in a bit of neat choreography in the show’s standout number ‘The Instagram Tango’ which you could easily see in many a cabaret show. But the use of an overamplified performance track robs any chance of subtlety for Finlay McKillop and Scarlett Ayers’ performances, both having to stridently belt pretty much throughout which further works against generating any kind of emotional purchase to get us engaged with the show.
The final title track does click a few of these pieces into place with a stirring musicality but it is far too little, too late. The very essence of this show needs to be reconceived so it can definitively call out its identity and then build from there; then it might be closer to being on the verge of success.