For their first production, new company Aion presented Firebringer, an almost unknown musical over here, originally produced by Starkid in the US. Sometimes the hardest gig as a reviewer is to comment on a show in which the enthusiasm and commitment of the group is 100%, but the results are a mixed bag. Jemilla and her stone age tribe collect nuts and berries and live their lives according to strict beliefs and rules, one of them being they worship a duck. Outside of their cave is Snarl, the feared predator, and when the troublemaker Zazzalil, goes outside during a storm, she discovers fire, becomes the leader and a new world order emerges. It’s an interesting and fun premise, and some of the gags worked, but inexperience among the company held back the potential in the material.
The main problem throughout was poor diction, both in the singing and in the telling of the story. From my seat in the middle of the auditorium, I struggled to make out the narrator, and we had a stand-up comedienne whose entire routine was impenetrable, not a word could be understood. The material itself is weak, a lively and promising first half gives way to a tedious second half which takes an age to reach its obvious conclusion, and it wasn’t helped by a dip in energy from the cast. However, there were some lively and audience pleasing performances. Bryony Palmer as Zazzalil and Nichola Richards were good in the lead roles, with strong vocals to move the narration on. Tyler Reuben was amusing as the outsider Grunt, and Corey Lee taps much of the comedy in the role of Ducker, religious leader of the group desperate to hold onto the only dry part of the cave. George Goddard almost stole the show as Smelly-Balls, (yep, it’s not a subtle show), though he should really learn all the lyrics to all the chorus numbers. I was impressed by Kayla Smith as Chorn, making their debut here and hiding a great singing voice unleashed towards the end of the show.
The show is clearly a labour of love for director and producer Tazi Amey, and therefore felt a bit insular, it felt like the company were enjoying a lot of in jokes. The musical direction by Louisa Fletcher delivered a score that has its moments, but is quite bland, the choreography by Noah Alfred Pantano was fun and enjoyable and the lighting and staging by the technical team was excellent. There is so much swearing in the book it loses its power very early on, and it was amusing to note that every singer adopted a Disney accent, was this a generational thing? I end where I began, the enthusiasm of the company was good, it just needed vocal coaching.