Come look at the freaks

BA Musical Theatre students opened their final RCS show, Side Show, at West Brewery on Wednesday night. Marketing manager and musical theatre lover Linda Innes went to see the students perform one last time.

The opening number of Side Show encourages you to stare at the freaks. From the bearded lady to the human pin cushion this emporium is packed with strange and wonderful creatures for curious audiences to point and marvel at. The crown jewels of this Texan freak show are Violet and Daisy Hilton, Siamese twins who have grown up in this run-down side show. Though quite physically joined at the hip, the twins couldn’t be more different, with Violet yearning to be “like everyone else” whilst Daisy dreams of Hollywood stardom.

The musical, based on a true story, follows the Hilton sisters as they are persuaded by talent scout Terry and his aspiring performer sidekick Buddy, to break free from the side show and make a name for themselves on the vaudeville stage.

This is the final show performed by the third year BA Musical Theatre students as they prepare to graduate and enter the professional world. Having seen the students in London Road and Spring Awakening, I wanted to catch this final actor-muso piece which I guessed would be just a tad lighter than their previous performances.

This show also marks the first time RCS has used West Brewery as a performance space, turning the Glasgow Green bar and restaurant into a theatre venue. Watching the ensemble of “malformations” seamlessly intertwine, swapping instruments, vocal harmonies and dance moves as they dash around the stage against a backdrop of industrial-sized beer tanks certainly gives the audience a feeling that they might actually be watching a real life side show.

The hard working ensemble are always on in-sight; sitting primed on the bleakers they accompany every song as either back-up vocals or on their instruments. The depth of skill on those side lines is remarkable.

The rest of the cast handle the show superbly. Edward August and Charlie McCullagh are a believable pair of loveable scoundrels, and the song ”˜Private Conversation’ is a particularly poignant moment. Luke Hickman is perfectly cast as Jake, the overprotective minder, and his ”˜The Devil You Know’ gets the audience tapping along in their seats.

But the stars of this side show are, of course, Violet and Daisy, played by Emma Harding and Grace Galloway. Violet’s anguish is as audible as her sister’s shameless flirting and you find yourself mesmerised by their conjoined choreography.

This was the second performance of the (rather hot) day from these students. It’s obvious they give it their all as they pick up their instruments and play and sing and dance and perform, always in character, across the stage. As they took their final bow, there was one last reprise of ”˜I Will Never Leave You’. It seemed to me that the whole ensemble were not belting this anthem out for the Hilton sisters, but rather singing it to one another as they prepare to part ways for the first time in three years. That, for me, was the truly stellar moment of Side Show.

Go look at the freaks. It’s the last time you’ll see this particular Side Show together and that surely makes it a must see attraction.

Side Show is on until 23 May at West Brewery, Glasgow Green. Buy tickets here.

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