On the segregated sides of an endless stone wall live two very different societies. One, a patriarchal nation with enforced gender roles and a religious devotion to the wall. The other, a society of excessive egalitarianism, where noting differences in gender, age and religion is forbidden. This side worships only one deity: progress. Wall! is the tale of what happens when two girls, Hannah and Vanna, divided by the wall, separately wonder if there might be other ways to live.
Undeniably thinly veiled, Jake Brasch’s Wall! is a metaphor for the extremes of US society today. A ‘what-if’ contemplating the potential for a rise in authoritarianism and identity politics. While being undeniably American, Brasch’s musical still plays well to a foreign audience, with its relatable commentary on the polarisation of Western politics.
Katy Hollis and Grace Anolin give impressive performances as the two leads. The power of their voices and the instant likeability of their characters make them captivating heroines. Special mentions must also go to Evan Sullivan and Isa Harris who add brilliant comic timing and energy.
With many of the musical numbers taking place on both sides of the wall simultaneously, there is potential for mistimed cues to derail a song. This never happens, thanks to the strong direction and the talent of the lively ensemble. Indeed, the musical truly packs a punch when the 30-strong ensemble come together for big numbers such as ‘Dig’ and ‘Finale.’ Directors Eli Carpenter and Shawn Hann use the large group of students to their advantage, creating ambitious yet well-executed scenes.
Wall! is very much a high-school musical. Some of the ensemble choreography could have been finessed, and occasionally soloists struggle to fill the space with their performances. This was largely due to a lack of amplification. The abrupt, cliffhanger ending sets the scene for the sequel ‘Wall 2.0’ also being performed at Fringe this year.
The unrelenting, infectious enthusiasm of these students make it impossible to leave this musical without a smile on your face, humming along to the catchy showtunes. It would not be surprising to see some of these young actors treading the boards on Broadway in the not-to-distant future.
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