top of page

Review: Without at Underbelly Cowgate – Ed Fringe

Updated: Aug 20, 2023

Review by Olivia Ruggiero

Walking into the Big Belly at Underbelly’s Cowgate venue, there is a distinct “Once” vibe. The stage is set with a single park bench, a drum kit, a keyboard, a man strumming a guitar and a girl casually sitting on the floor of the theatre, engrossed in her phone. They are dressed in modern clothing – hints of yellow bloom around the stage. Yellow tape, yellow microphone chords, yellow stripes on the guitar – all sunny editions to the stage which is otherwise quite dimly lit.

“Without”, a new musical, written by Ben Tomalin, Maisie Fawcett and Sophie Holmes, with music by Ben Tomalin could very much be the next “Once”, and is, without a doubt, the best new show I have seen at Fringe this year.

You never quite know what you’re going to get walking into a brand new, freshly composed show, but this show is sheer brilliance and so beautiful, words don’t quite encompass how wonderful it really is.

There are Fringe things that make this show, not quite perfect, like the fact the performers are often unamplified, which makes singing over the amplified band quite a challenge and at times, less than ideal. There are times when it seems they use the wired microphone quite cleverly, and others where it’s clearly a last-ditch attempt for a soloist to be heard, but these things would be easily fixed in a non-Fringe setting, with proper tech.

The musical compositions of Tomalin and Swarbrick are stunning. Simple melodies, sometimes folk like, sometimes jazzy and often with a contemporary pop vibe that suit the essence and the flow of the story perfectly. This eclectic cast is very groovy and charming, with great voices, the harmonies soar and voices blend together well to create a fantastic ensemble sound. The standout soloist are certainly Alex Morton (boy, do I want to hear more from her), with a powerhouse voice and engaging stage presence, she blows the roof off the theatre.

The standout performance certainly belongs to Darragh Chaplin, whose voice is at times like smooth honey and at other’s perfectly husky. His emotional arc in the show is outrageously good and his solo song – the 11 o’clock number in this show - is the highlight. So emotionally portrayed and sung flawlessly, you can’t take your eyes off this performer.

The lighting design is fabulous, and we all know that Fringe techs are tight, so what they have done in the time they had is awesome. They create different times of days, emotional states and ambience with this lighting and the actors always manage to find or stay in their light! The movement and choreography are well thought out and not too complicated but add to the story and the performers do well to make it all seem very natural.

There are funny moments in this show and poignant ones. It’s a show that speaks to teachers – all teachers – who have no doubt, at times, felt lost and wondered how to guide when they themselves are struggling. It’s a show packed with heart and soul. No doubt this one has a bright future ahead of it. It works as a Fringe show with only 6 performers but could not doubt go further and should. Grab a ticket. Don’t miss this one!

Image Supplied


bottom of page