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Road Safety: the (Not) Musical
Etcetera Theatre
16th August 2016

★★☆☆☆

Publicity photograph for Road Safety: the (Not) Musical

Photography provided by the Camden Fringe

Making a show about a failing show is a bold move, which requires a sharp script, tight pacing and very strong actors. It can sometimes work; you need look no further than The Play That Goes Wrong. Unfortunately Road Safety: the (Not) Musical isn't quite in the same league. Although co-creators Lydia Breckon and Matthew Scudder have done their best to drive the action, it's a rather bumpy journey. Over the course of the show, we're introduced to the different "actors", from the downtrodden Zebra Crossing (Emily Millwood) to the slimy road safety hedgehog (Will Jarvis) with his spiky backpack, offering a prick to anyone who wants one. Somewhat methodically we work our way through the cast, learning how much they hate their own role in the musical when a crime is committed, with the whole company in the frame.

There's an idea in this script, however it's predominantly hindered by the slow pacing. In the opening scenes in particular, in which the diva-eque Cone (Frankie Brickman) argues with the extra (Osian Ivor Ervillers Dixon), the two men seem to be deliberately drawing out each word to prolong their speeches. A kinder audience member might suggest this is a deliberate parody of the characters' poor acting skills, but it feels clunky and unnecessary. The mere act of speeding up the delivery of these two actors would make their lines much more natural and help create a bit more energy. Given their scene is right at the beginning of the show, they need to capture the audience's imagination, not allow their minds to wander.

With a large ensemble cast, there is a lot of background setting to get through, and this makes the middle feel very repetitive and drawn out. It might be worth cutting some of the characters, or at the very least, reworking their lines to make them more dynamic. Whilst it feels like the Zebra Crossing and the Driver (Amedeo Felix Gonnella) take too long to establish the pin-eapp-le joke, as it's woven into the script as a call back, the joke actually begins to gather momentum and becomes funny after all.

The love-hate relationship between Bollard Howard (Harry Neal) and Bollard Jen (Georgia Kandrettis) is promising, although when the characters are first introduced, it would be more effective with more visible disgust from Kandrettis. Ageing starlet Amber (Molly Barber) along with her co-stars Red (James Hawley) and the contemplative Green (Jake George) do have their moments of humour too. Mary (Rosa Day-Jones), presumably the show's faux-director, feels underused, which is a shame given she's one of the actors with the most spark.

When you discover that the majority of the cast are still in the middle of their degrees and some aren't even studying drama, it all begins to make sense. This is a group of people having fun on stage and doing something brave, which is commendable, however doesn't necessarily make for good theatre. Whilst this production is not without its potential, Breckon and Scudder are too close to their own script and it needs much stronger and more decisive direction to keep it on the road.

Road Safety: the (Not) Musical opened on 15th August and runs until 19th August 2016 at the Etcetera Theatre, as part of the Camden Fringe.

Nearest tube station: Camden Town (Northern)



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