Beyond The Fence
Reviewed on Friday 26th February 2016
If we knew the secret formula to staging a blockbuster hit musical then we'd all be billionaires; sadly scientists are no closer to cracking the code. Marking the world's first computer generated musical, Beyond The Fence has opened at the Arts Theatre as part of the current Sky Arts TV series Computer Says Show.
After successful musicals were studied, Beyond The Fence was created with the wonders of science generating the setting, characters, plot twists and some of the music etc. The computer's material has been fine-tuned and expanded on by writing duo Benjamin Till and Nathan Taylor with director Luke Sheppard. The process and concept are fascinating, Beyond The Fence is certainly the most intriguing show to open in the West End this year.
A story about love, friendship and standing up for what you believe in, Beyond The Fence is set in 1982 and follows a mother and her mute daughter who join forces with a group of women who organise a non-violent protest in an attempt to stop the arrival of U.S. cruise missiles.
Reminiscent of Made In Dagenham - which lasted five months in the West End - Beyond The Fence is nice but bland. I didn't think the characters, story and music came together to create a show with genuine heart.
During the interval I turned around to see if there was an MD screen as I wasn't sure whether the music was being played live. There was indeed a live off-stage band; however, the orchestrations sounded extremely robotic and monotonous - it sounded as if backing tracks were being used.
The cast had some strong moments, it's particularly wonderful to see Laura Jane Matthewson back onstage, but the musical never gives them the opportunity to truly soar. A couple of the comedic numbers in the second act are great fun and a few well-delivered one liners are amusing. The inevitable conclusion is heartwarming once it eventually arrives.
If you've caught part one of the documentary, Beyond The Fence is certainly worth seeing - as a theatrical event the show is remarkable. However, as a piece of theatre in its own right Beyond The Fence doesn't stand strong; it feels contrived and clunky.
Reviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)
Beyond The Fence runs at the Arts Theatre until Saturday 5th March 2016.
Please visit www.artstheatrewestend.co.uk for further information and tickets.
Photo Credit: Robert Workman