Buried: A New Musical tells the story of Harry and Rose, a couple who meet through an online dating service – only to discover they are, in fact, both serial killers. A darkly comic tale unfolds as the pair try to balance a normal relationship with their murderous activities. Written by Tom Williams and Cordelia O’Driscoll, it's the first original production from Sheffield-based Colla Voce Theatre.
The two leads are supported by four chorus members, and a number of live musicians providing the folk-style music. The performances by the entire cast are excellent, but the chorus deserve special mention; they work through a huge number of costumes as they play all the other people the central pair comes into contact with (and a few voices on television, as well). Each individual character is fully realised and effective: examples include a waiter who catches Rose’s eye – a role performed perfectly, despite involving no dialogue; an obnoxious female gap year traveller; and a young child runaway, whose presence begins the couple’s inevitable downfall.
The mutual fascination that Harry and Rose have for one another is, in many respects, a neat parallel for society’s obsession with serial killers. The protagonists even watch television shows about psychopaths with apparent fascination. Both have a monologue in the show describing how psychopaths differ from other people; these interludes are given in a slightly academic fashion, which adds to rather than detracts from their impact. They are genuinely interesting.
Harry and Rose talk and sing to each other about the difficulties they have faced trying to assimilate in to normal society, and their "first times" – subverting the usual meaning of that phrase, reassigning it to their first kills. The best song of the involves the pair trying to come up with a believable backstory for their relationship, a task that is often derailed by inappropriate statements from Harry.
I found myself rooting for the protagonists, hoping that everything would work out well for them. But they’re serial killers. How can anything work out for them that does not cost the lives of others? This conflict is a testament to the writing, as – while not shying away from the murders – the focus is on their sweet, slightly dysfunctional relationship.
If there's one issue, it's that the production feels a little confined by its time limit: Harry and Rose quickly evolve from mutually curious, through the usual relationship highs and lows, to potentially final contentious issues. Outside the constraints of the Fringe, it would be nice to see the work expanded, so that the questions it raises can be explored in more detail.
As it stands though, Buried is hugely enjoyable, with excellent performances throughout. And it manages to be educational at the same time.