Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus’ musical, Chess, centers on the World Chess Championship in Merano, Italy. The two finalists – Freddie Trumper and Anatoly Sergievsky – are respectively American and Soviet Russian, competing for the prize in the midst of the Cold War. The competition soon becomes about more than chess when tensions rise and political agendas are revealed.
EUSOG’s latest production oscillates between fantastic and average. The eighteen strong Chorus are particularly to be commended. Their on-stage presence, particularly in the first half, was polished and highly engaging. Their dancing during the chess-playing scenes was the only weakness in their performance, being at different points sensational, mediocre and on occasion, clumsy.
Unfortunately, Tadgh Cullen (Freddie Trumper) struggled with the vocal range demanded by the role and his American accent deteriorated in the second half. However, deserving of commendation was Lydia Carrington, her voice soared and her portrayal of Florence increasingly endeared the audience to her story.
Given the fast-pace of many of Tim Rice’s lyrics, it was a shame that in the odd place the words were lost as a combined result of overpowering music and under-enunciation. However, this only occurred occasionally and the band is to be praised for a fantastic delivery of every number in the show.
The use of a projected screen in the centre of the stage was innovative. Particularly interesting was the use of a video camera to project the current scene onto the screen as it was being performed. This enabled the audience to watch the scene from two angles simultaneously, providing a unique and modern twist which was very much welcome. On-stage lighting was relatively simple but effective, working well in combination with the projection screen without being obtrusive to the cast’s performance.
Whilst there were areas that lacked polish, overall, EUSOG’s Chess is an enjoyable performance that is worth a watch this November. The audience’s only regret will be forgetting their furs and a second pair of socks, as having to sit in a theatre frostier than the Cold War itself was highly uncomfortable.