Edinburgh Reviews: Departure Lounge

Departure Lounge tells the story of four “lads on tour” over the course of an hour sat in the departure lounge of a spanish airport, looking back over their time on holiday and, through flashbacks and songs, unravelling the various secrets of the four. Sounds pretty dire, doesn’t it? Well, it isn’t.

I was encouraged to see this show by the MD of our show, who absolutely loved it and had, by the time I saw it with him, been four or five times. It had quite a lot to live up to when I saw it, then, and it nevertheless impressed me. This is, in the least patronising way possible, exactly the kind of show that the Fringe is for. Small cast, limited budget, hour-long format, and perfectly formed and brilliantly performed. All too often shows come to Edinburgh whose success is in making you want to see a bigger and better production of the same material; nobody could say that about Departure Lounge.

The performances are perfectly pitched, all of the cast are professionals and can sing beautifully (a relief in the world of Edinburgh Fringe musicals, I can tell you), but really the genius of this show lies in the writing. Dougal Irvine’s score and libretto are exactly right for the show and for the hour-long format, the plot perfectly paced, the dialogue for the most part very believable, and the music a cut above your average musical theatre tunes without showing off. The writing uses songs economically and to great effect, each song having a clear purpose in the narrative (usually at least two purposes, actually).

Whilst I was in Edinburgh, I saw a couple of reviewers fall into that age old trap of assuming that depicting something was the same thing as advocating it, sniffily dismissing the show as “not as ironic as it thinks it is” and so on. All I can say on that account is that these people are hopeless and shouldn’t be allowed to review shows; Departure Lounge goes out of its way to make clear in one or two satirical songs that there is a rather unpleasant side to the kind of Brits Abroad that it shows, so I can only assume that you have to be the most joyless lefty around to grudge the show its use of these ingredients – the kind of people who give “political correctness” a bad name.

If I had one problem with the show, it is the slightly clumsy way in which the central metaphor of the show is shoe-horned into the dialogue in the middle of the show, the most thoughtful of the lads just dropping it into conversation, accompanied by a little “I’ve just had a funny thought” marker. The show doesn’t need this, the final song contains enough for people to pick this aspect of the show up unaided, I would say.

Still, marvellous stuff, the best musical I saw in Edinburgh.

5/5

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