Review: Orcs! The Musical
The resulting production needs a lot more polish before it can be truly enjoyed by its audience.
Billed as a parody featuring orc-ified versions of favorite musical theater, this Muscial has created something of a polemic, so I was intrigued to see what Dyer, her production team, and her 15-strong cast produced. The production, however didn't up to the hype. Although there was some very strong acting, the overall product needs a lot more polish before it can be truly enjoyed by its audience.
Dyer’s writing varies. Most scenes are witty, some are laugh out loud funny, but often at the expensive of narrative clarity. The love story between HaAfa (Daniel Pitts) and Princess Claudia (Antonia Perna) is not developed nearly enough to make it plausible and I remain mystified by the entire background story.
Dyer's direction is, similarly, a little slapdash. Many scenes do not feel adequately blocked, so that actors seem unsure of how to negotiate the space around them, leading to a pervasive sense of awkwardness. David Whittle, as the narrator, is the notable exception, managing by and large to lend a commanding presence to the proceedings.
I appreciate that Fountains Hall is a difficult platform to coordinate for ensemble work, but I would have expected far more sparkle in the scenes with just two or three actors. The fight scenes for one, are far too tentative to suggest any dramatic tension.
The acting covers a wide spectrum. The first scene did not fill me with much confidence about the two hours to come. The ensemble shuffled their way through an out-of-tune rendition of ‘Orc is the word,’ corpsing, bumping into each other, missing their cues and generally looking as though they would rather be anywhere but on stage.
However, there are some notable gems among the cast – both Livia Carron and Antonia Perna possess stunning musical theatre voices which are a real joy to listen to. Carron in particular brings charisma and energy to her scene with Pitts, and her rendition of ‘I’m jist an Orc who can’t say no’ is one of the highlights of the show, alongside Perna’s ‘Don’t cry for me Astra Rubis.’
That said, there are many members of the cast who seem uncomfortable from the outset, and even more so when dancing and singing are thrown into the mix. Many seem embarrassed to be on stage, which translates clearly to the audience members and makes for painful viewing. Lines are delivered too quietly to be heard, gestures are stifled before they have a chance to develop…
if Orcs The Musical were to work as a parody, it would need the full commitment of the actors to the concept, and the current overriding impression is one of acute embarrassment and discomfort.
As with many Oook! productions, the technical elements were frequently outstanding: costumes, sourced mainly from Durham University Treasure Trap, were out-of-this-world, and beautifully complemented Karina Dar Juan’s excellent make-up. Lighting, however, was frustratingly inconsistent, with a tendency to fade out too quickly and scene changes took far too long considering that there was so little scenery. Again, there is little technical wizardry that can be executed within the confines of Fountains Hall, but these kind of technical mistakes should really be confined to first night at worst.
Predominantly, Orcs The Musical feels half-done, and presented in this raw form it is unlikely to maintain audience interest for two hours. Some elements are very strong, but are unfortunately masked by the weaker aspects of the show, which need a huge amount of work in order to produce a viable piece of theatre.