Review by Tatum Stafford
When I heard the premise of ‘Four Felons and a Funeral’; a queer rom-com road-trip musical, I had high hopes – and I’m super happy to report that they were exceeded by this gem of a show playing at Pleasance Courtyard this month.
The story follows four dysfunctional friends who have stolen their friend Charlie’s ashes from his funeral, and plan to scatter them in the place he supposedly wanted to end up – in a vat of Guinness at the Guinness Factory in Dublin. Along the way, they butt heads over gender and identity, infidelity, incompatibility and more, and along the way, have to grieve their friend and try to move on together.
This show is a shining example of the strengths of independent music theatre at the moment. It features a solid book (Sam Woof) and score (Sam Woof and Math Roberts), with gorgeous music and powerful moments of both tension and comedy throughout. The pair should be commended in particular for creating tangible, believable relationships between the friends, and infusing realistic modern experiences into the storyline which made it real and relatable.
The actors were sublime, and worked together with incredible chemistry – even more evident in the second row of this intimate venue. They harmonised beautifully, nailed some complex time signatures in the music, and kept the pace very steadily to ensure the plot wasn’t dragging at any point in the show, which they should be commended for as this is a common trap to fall into.
Mandy Maguire was a standout as Bex, Charlie’s sister who went through a deep journey of grief throughout the show. Maddy had a beautiful voice and was given plenty of opportunities in the score to share it with us. I particularly enjoyed the way she displayed such vivid emotion through her songs.
Jordan Broatch was effervescent in the role of Wilf, and had a super fun song about the joys of regional service stations which was an early audience favourite. Gabrielle Friedman was incredibly likeable as Millie, and Rua Barron’s Saz was very well-acted and strong.
I really enjoyed how creative and flexible the set was. Aesthetically, it used shades of lavender to tie props and set pieces (like the makeshift Fiat, made of blocks and a shag rug) together seamlessly, and the cast worked together to manoeuvre pieces around to create new scenes very effectively. Kudos to designer Sonya Smullen for some great work here.
All in all, this was a really fun and thought-provoking new musical that I was very glad to catch this Fringe. I’d recommend grabbing a ticket and enjoying this dose of fantastic contemporary musical theatre.