A Grave Situation is the third Young Pleasance show which I’ve had the pleasure of watching at the Edinburgh Fringe and I am always convinced that, amongst the young cast, there are surely actors destined to be future stars of stage and screen. I would say that the quality of this ensemble is astounding but, after having seen Alice Unhinged (2016) and The Curse of Cranholme Abbey (2017), I’m no longer surprised by the high standard of performance across the board.
“High standard of performance across the board”
This new offering from the company takes as its focus a group of Huddersfield gravediggers who are sent to the beaches of Northern France in 1940. As ever, the attention to period detail is extremely high, with excellent costume design by Simone Jones and Sophia Pardon and strong sound design by Oscar Maguire. I was particularly impressed with the choice of Flanagan and Allen’s ‘Run Rabbit Run’ (1939) as an opener which, in addition to being highly period appropriate, immediately reminded me of Jordan Peele’s comedy-horror film Get Out (2016) in which it is also used, and thus set a suitably unsettling mood.
By contrast, the production itself was fairly conventional in relation to the company’s previous offerings, with a greater focus on musical numbers and romance-driven narratives. While these numbers were brilliantly choregraphed and sung, I felt as though some of the edge had been lost and could have lived without some of the multiple plot lines which led to an overstuffed narrative.
A Grave Situation was at its best when focusing on the unrequited love story between Colonel Sharpish (Kishore Thiagarajan-Walker in an astounding transformation into a Lord Melchett-esque buffoon) and his meek, adoring and constantly misnamed assistant Susie Gunning (played by the show’s undoubted standout performer Angela Ashton). I would also commend the relationship between Chippy Wilberforce (Leo Milne) and Vera Peas (Eleanor Davies) both of whom delivered an excellent blend of poignant longing and amusing parody of library-bound romances.
A Grave Situation takes what I can only describe as a deeply strange shift during its final act, when the gravediggers – apparently blown up by a stick of dynamite – ascend into Heaven and are met with a choir of angels. While I admire the project’s ambition, the grounded and realistic performance and dialogue had done nothing to lay the ground for such an abrupt change in tone. I left the theatre reflecting on a show chock full of outstanding performances but perhaps lacking the depth and darkness of past shows which has marked this company has the Fringe’s premier group of youth performers.
A Grave Situation has now finished its run at Pleasance Courtyard – Pleasance Beyond but Young Pleasance will be returning in 2020 with a new show.
Image: Young Pleasance