Active Virgin

Wed 1st – Mon 27th August 2012


Laura Peatman

at 01:25 on 12th Aug 2012



As the audience burst into rapturous applause, I was left feeling a little confused and more than a little frustrated at the conclusion of ‘Active Virgin’. I had no doubt witnessed a wonderfully talented ensemble from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, confident and assured in all areas of singing, dancing and acting. Yet I had not enjoyed the hour nearly as much as I should have. The problem? This absurd new musical from John and Gerry Kielty lets down its gifted cast due to an incoherent plot, butchered and unsubtle message, and unmemorable tunes.

The energy of this ensemble from beginning to end is fantastic. They stride onto the stage with buoyancy and flair, striking Gaga-esque poses and assailing the excited auditorium with their powerful vocal ensemble. Considering this musical is set in a gym, the stamina required for many of the routines is impressive, and none of the performers show any sign of flagging as they throw themselves into the show – at one point I could feel the seating actually shaking as the cast bounces around the stage, often with impressive gymnastic abilities. This is a group of young performers with attitude: Charlie Olivia in particular demonstrated heaps of brashness with a suitable injection of vulnerability, whilst Al Braatz gets many a deserved laugh with his hilariously expressive physical comedy. The singing was also first-class, with some lovely harmonies from Braatz, Adam Clark and Joe Bliss in particular, and the stand-out vocal power of Keisha T. Fraser. I fully commend the company for a brilliant performance full of energy, pizzazz and sheer raw talent.

And yet – this show is lacking. The programme notes list the many awards bestowed upon the Kielty brothers for their previous works, and I do not dispute that these were fully justified. Yet this new piece did not live up to such a standard: firstly, the plot made little sense. The principal moral theme – the futile and damaging obsessive quest for physical perfection – was evident (indeed, painfully and unsubtly so) yet the storyline itself was obscure to the point of opaque. The female lead (a more-than-capable Leah Scott) had little to no character development, and I still fail to understand why on earth her virginity had any relevance to the show beyond an opportunity to include a song about sex – albeit one with some admittedly hilarious dance moves. As the show progressed, it became a strange combination of the predictable (the tone and humour) and the incredulous (the increasingly bizarre plot line).

There were elements of humour, and credit again must be given to the cast for eliciting these at every possible moment. I enjoyed the nods to other musicals – for example, Leah is ‘Member 24601’ at the gym, a reference that will not go unnoticed by fans of 'Les Mis' – and the blatant yet funny meta-theatricality of lines such as “That’s funny” – “I hope so, it’s been a long enough build-up”. Yet these could not redeem a confused and flat script; a lack of catchy tunes doomed the show further, and a highly underwhelming conclusion ultimately underlined its complete lack of impact and purpose. This ensemble is far greater than a three-star outfit: yet the material they have been given for this première restricts their show to average at best, when it should be outstanding.


Elizabeth O'Connor

at 10:09 on 12th Aug 2012



Leaving One Academy's production of new musical 'Active Virgin', I had absolutely no idea how to write or begin this review. The script is funny but has little depth, characters are strange but also strangely charming, the music lively but a little same-y. It is a show of mixed standards that follows its own mantra of perfection being unachievable a little too loyally.

But let's start with the script. The show depicts a Dystopian world in which our obsession with beauty and fitness completely governs our lives, presenting us with a group of people who obsess over their insecurities to the point of insanity. It's an idea that, on paper, has a lovely modern resonance, but it is marred by a plot that is sloppy and occasionally nonsensical with an incredibly cheesy ending. It also has a bizarre, unexplained thematic undercurrent of marriage and virginity. The virginity of the eponymous 'Active Virgin' becomes a huge topic for no apparent reason as the cast harmonise over sexual innuendos and hip-thrust like their lives depended on it, but then is never mentioned again. The songs are generally good, but not great, relying a little too much on the cast singing in unison rather than allowing them to shine individually. The script does show some promise, though - lyrics are quick-witted, and the Doctor's self-conscious one liners - "it's far too early in the musical to draw any conclusions" - are a lovely touch.

And luckily for the audience, any chinks in the script are immediately made up for by a cast who can boast an effervescent energy and bags of talent. The singing and comic timing is utterly flawless - there is no real stand-out performer as every member delivers something electric, delightfully playing up to their own stereotype. They capture exactly the right level of pantomimic acting without letting it become cheesy or tedious, whilst also letting moments of reflection and poignancy (such as Charlie Olivia's lovely 'Elephant in the Room') shine through.

'Active Virgin' is well-worth catching. It's a colourful, fun production, with standout performances from both cast and band. It's a shame that the script doesn't quite gel, but even those imperfections are matched with moments of humour and fun that make it a wholly entertaining way to spend an hour.


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