Berlin Girl is described as a story of love and rebellion which follows 16-year-old Berlin school girl Miranda as she gets caught up in the totalitarian regime of East Berlin in the 1960s. The subject matter is fairly intriguing, especially considering the questionable choice to perform it in the rock musical genre. However, the strange contrast between the upbeat musical numbers and the heartbreaking historical events results in a performance that ultimately fails to hit the mark.
The lights go up and the audience is presented with a rather large and rather young cast. The staging is at its simplest, with only black blocks being used as props and scenery. The band are placed at the back of the stage, a decision which is hugely distracting given the already crowded stage and considering they are wearing bright red shirts instead of a darker colour that would allow them to better fade into the background.
The play shows real promise from the young actors, and they tackle the serious and historical themes extremely maturely; , the pain of the past is clearly written on the face of the main character. However, this seriousness is immediately lost when the cast transports the audience to the character Miranda’s school classroom and an electric rock song begins. The musical genre throughout the play is utterly out of touch with the serious themes at hand and the singing ability of the youth group is often underwhelming given what seems to have been expected from the composer. This being said, the professionalism and growing talent of the young cast shines through the poor material, and they convey the performance with as much seriousness as they can given the nature of the writing.
The musical talent of Sam Brown (Xander) in particular is one of the few saviours of the performance. His voice is exquisitely mature and powerful for his age. Brown often carries the duets he is in while his fellow cast members sometimes lack the confidence needed to deliver the notes.
The confusion regarding the tone and plot of the show only continues, though, as characters are presented without any real introduction. These characters are hollow, and it is difficult for the actors to show their talent – a flaw on the writer’s part rather than the cast’s. Alongside this, the story jumps over vast periods of time without anything but a single line’s explanation as to how the audience and cast have ended up there or what has happened during the missing time. Instead of clear lines, the cast have been presented with vague and simple dialogue, which unfortunately makes for a disappointing performance by an obviously eager group of actors.
The choreography is effective in portraying the violence of the Stasi Police, but once more lacks continuity. Some of the movements seem to intentionally reflect British Sign Language, which could have been hugely effective if conveyed correctly. However, it is not upheld throughout the dances and due to a lack of enthusiasm could easily be missed.
Overall, Berlin Girl’s script is more to blame than its cast for a disappointing production. The young cast work well with the material they were given, but the genre of music used grossly misjudges the seriousness of the Stasi regime and pairing it with a jolly soundtrack is utterly wrong for the nature of the inspirational material. The cast should take the experience with them and grow from it, while writer George Rennison should instead perhaps stick to more joyful plotlines to pair with his writing and lyrics.
Berlin Girl is on at at TheSpaceUK @ Surgeons Hall
At 21:55 until the 17th of August
Buy tickets here
Image: Eastern Edge Theatre Company