Shrewsbury School

'The Lost Domain' at the Edinburgh Fringe

Wednesday 10 September 2014

Shrewsbury’s Director of Music John Moore and former Senior Master Peter Fanning have achieved some notable triumphs at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in the last 20 years, but the revival of their musical production ‘The Lost Domain’ this year must count as one of their greatest.

Peter Fanning writes:
"A fantastically good week in Edinburgh followed an intense rehearsal period of eleven days in Shrewsbury and a preview performance to a packed auditorium in the Ashton Theatre.

Very few of the cast had had any experience of Moore/Fanning musicals – although there were two notable OSs (Sam Ansloos and Gus Haynes) onstage, along with Sienna Holmes; and three band players (Ali Webb, Will Heyes and Carys Gittins). As for the rest - a combination of current students and recent leavers - they had to learn the ropes at tremendous speed. Also accompanying the group was Alex Davies (Technical Director), James Brown (OS) on sound and Al Wager (OS)  who was in charge of lighting. It was lovely to have these old boys and girls with us, not least because of their professional approach to this very complex undertaking.

To make up the staff, we were joined by Toby Percival, who as tour manager runs the logistics in Edinburgh. Toby has undertaken this very taxing job on five occasions now – and as ever he was quite magnificent in looking after the company – not least the younger boys – feeding, minding and managing them all. Helen Brown, newly appointed Director of Drama, generously gave up two weeks of her holiday to act as a general factotum – working backstage and on make-up and costumes, along with Jane Fanning and Phillippa Moore. Helen proved an invaluable presence; utterly unphased at being dropped into the cauldron of Edinburgh tours, ever resourceful and wonderfully supportive. 

Getting such a complex show into a tiny venue is challenging to say the least. There are smoke machines, projection, massive issues with micing and sound; complex props, three costume changes in minimal space for every actor; lighting to be redesigned, staging to be set and stored. The time allotted to ‘get-in’ each performance was 15 minutes (though in fact we managed to squeeze in a little more). Somehow all this was achieved with a remarkable lack of backstage drama.

Though numbers were a little down on some of our previous years, the audience response was quite astoundingly enthusiastic. And in many ways, this was a vintage tour – with some outstanding performances, wonderful singing and great playing from the band. We played to decent houses, rising from 40+ to nearly a 100 at each show.

Amongst the 3000 performances being staged at the Fringe this year, The Lost Domain’ was not a new creation; therefore critical reviews were hard to come by. However, BroadwayBaby’s verdict was: 'for such a young group, they have created something really professional'. Setting aside the patronising tone, this is an accurate reflection of what the company achieved. The same reviewer went on to say: 'The ensemble singing in this piece of musical theatre is fantastic. The cast start off really strong and create a wonderfully full sound, with rich harmonies. The accompanying band are also excellent, helping to create a professional and slick performance. The boys in this show are a massive part of its success, with strong voices and some good acting. Special praise has to go to George Fowler, playing Augustin, as for a demanding role he copes very well and has a lovely tone developing.'

This is the twelfth occasion on which JFM and I have collaborated at the Fringe. We believe this company was right up with the best we’ve worked with, both in terms of singing, and in their general demeanour; they were, to a boy and girl, supportive and always pleasant to work with.  Taking a large group to the Fringe can sometimes be a chore, almost as much as it is a real pleasure. This group were self-disciplined, polite, hard working – and very talented to boot. It’s good to report how wonderfully well their work paid off."

To view more photos, please see: 'The Lost Domain' at the Edinburgh Fringe - photo gallery

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