Edinburgh Festival Fringe theatre review: The Great Downhill Journey Of Little Tommy, reviewed by The Scotsman’s Mark Fisher.
It feels like the show has hardly begun and already the band has powered its way through hardcore screamo, sunny Californian pop, stripped-back rap and experimental electronica. By the end of the performance, the four-piece will have mixed in everything from Sixties psychedelia to classic soul, taking side roads to mainstream rock and elemental dub.
They really are formidable and there’s no doubt The Great Downhill Journey of Little Tommy is as much a musical treat as theatrical. Staged as part of the Big in Belgium season, it’s a rock opera that was created by the talented team of multi-instrumentalist Jonas Vermeulen and guitarist Boris Van Severen as part of their final exam at the Studio Herman Teirlinck institute in Antwerp.
Calling to mind the baroque darkness of Shockheaded Peter, it tells a simple story of Little Tommy, a social outcast who leaves his mother behind to venture into an uncaring adult world of animal hunting, heavy drinking, sexual promiscuity and hedonistic excess.
As fairy stories go, it is short on narrative complexity. The programme note talks about the “coming of age” story which gives “the floor to the outsiders” and, while it does that, there’s not much room to explore those ideas in any depth. This, though, suits the rock-music format and, in an hour of considerable musical variety – not to mention virtuosity – they manage to tell a coherent story with flair.
Bonus points for the cartoon illustrations, drawn live on a screen at the back of the stage and credited to Sarah Yu Zeebroek and Maily Beyrens. They add an extra touch of theatricality to an event that successfully blurs the line between concert and theatre, while offering an invigorating late-night treat.
Summerhall (Venue 26) until 30 August / listings
Published in The Scotsman on 20 August 2015
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