Royal Conservatoire of Scotland
With the Cold War serving as the backdrop, tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union building, and back-room dodgy dealings and secret handshakes, perhaps there has not been a more opportune year to stage Chess, the musical by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus of ABBA, and with lyrics by Tim Rice. The Conservatoire's music theatre cohort, under the superb direction of Professor Andrew Panton, can be proud of such a technically adept production, which really explored the complexities of the strategy game on more than one level. Binaries do not exist in this black and white world, but - in the end - there's no room for grey either.
Strong ticket sales precede the superb performances, so you may not be in luck if you try and secure a ticket; considering the central performance of Daisy Ann Fletcher as Florence Vassy it would be a crime if there is a free seat before the run ends on Saturday 1 April. The recipient of the Andrew Lloyd Webber scholarship, Fletcher's vocals were expressive and tuneful in Heaven Help My Heart but it was her choked-up I Know Him So Well (a duet with Hayley VerValin as Svetlana Sergievsky) which was truly electrifying.
Some diction issues aside, the masculine world of Championship Chess was admirably portrayed by Barney Wilkinson as Freddie Trumper and Jamie Pritchard as Anatoly Sergievsky. Wilkinson's physical energy (attributed to his 1980s cocaine habit) was offset by Pritchard's ultimately flawed and tragic statesmanlike demeanour. Evil machinations were expertly executed by Alexander Molokov (a smooth yet sinister Shane Convery) and balanced by a tour-de-force Arbiter (Emma Torrens, recipient of the Ian Fleming Scholarship award).
Darragh O'Leary's inspired choreography, David Higham's precise musical direction and Grant Anderson's pack-a-punch lighting design, all highlighted the collaborative nature of this across-discipline production. Another high quality Conservatoire show.
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