On arrival I was greeted warmly, by some very smart-looking ushers – and the audience quickly become familiar with the team looking after the public at the West End production of "Brittany, the Musical!" They all seem happy in their jobs on the surface, but as the story progresses, it becomes clear that there is much less contentment amongst them than first meets the eye. Each character, reminiscent of the chorus line, tells the tale of how they have ended up as an usher, and their dreams for something else.
Ushers made its debut in 2013, and it’s become a popular choice at the Fringe in the time since then. It’s easy to see why. I enjoyed the way the script mercilessly sends up the world of the West End musical; there are digs at shows such as Billy Elliot andShowboat, and even Andrew Lloyd Webber doesn’t escape a joke or two about his name. References to the monotony of the life of an usher were continuous, and there are plentiful anecdotes, including the worst thing ever found under a chair at the end of a show. (I certainly won't repeat it here.)
Sophie Allen captures the air-headed Rosie brilliantly, and the song telling of her fantasy for "leading men" was definitely a moment to smile about. Equally as watchable is Charlie Keable, in role as the venue manager and thwarted opera singer. He oozes a mixture of pure nastiness and slimy lecherousness, all with just a twitch of his eyebrows.
To be honest, however, I found the emerging solo stories a bit too contrived; the formula was all too obvious and therefore, some of the action felt a bit stilted. And although I like a happy ending, it was just too corny even for me.
But amongst the laughs, the excellent live keyboard music (Beth Wilson), and endless moments of tips for "making theatre better", this was a sober reminder for me that the life of an usher is not an easy one. As I left, a line from the play was ringing in my ears. "No one dreams of coming to London to become an usher...." And I hadn't really ever thought about that.
So thank you to the cast from Durham University for bringing this thought-provoking musical back to Edinburgh. I shall be much more mindful the next time I go to see a West End show – and I’ll be very, very careful not to leave anything under my seat at the end.