Alex – Or, What Happened on the Train to London – Edinburgh Fringe
Alex – Or, What Happened on the Train to London, is a new musical about an encounter a group of strangers have on a train to London. Dave is a student on his way to university in London, Alex is a fed-up student whose future career in childcare has become uninspiring, Marc has recently been jilted by his fiancée, Kate is a nervous young mother, and Emma is making her first major journey. Together with Rob, the train conductor, and an abandoned briefcase, these strangers battle with their own uncertainty in a fun musical set entirely in a single train carriage.
The set consists of six chairs with the small band of musicians set off to the side. When the musical opens the abandoned briefcase sits ominously on one of the chairs as the passengers board the train. Shortly after the journey commences, the train stops, seemingly having broken down, and the passengers are forced to get to know each other whilst they are stuck, without knowing how long they might be there.
Costumes are good with both Dave and Marc being dressed casually, in checked shirts, and Dave wearing ill-fitting brown trousers and Marc, jeans. Kate attempts to enhance her confidence with animal print in a red leopard print skirt and a fun cow print cover on her phone. Alex’s costume is a fun striped tee and dungarees which emphasises her creative side and her training in childcare. Emma’s casual look with a hint of vintage emphasises the character’s sheltered existence and nerves over making such a long journey.
There are a number of sound issues with the piece, which is unfortunate as on the whole it is well performed and there is a sweet and entertaining story to be told. Sadly, the musical instruments are always louder than the voices, so the lyrics of the original songs are almost impossible to hear and the spoken dialogue throughout the piece is on occasion barely audible, which makes the plot difficult to follow.
The script would benefit from some editing. Together with the audio issues, some of the dialogue feels contrived and unnatural, and the nonchalance with which the abandoned bag is treated is a little alarming considering how seriously this would be taken on a train headed to London. There are a few references to passengers stepping outside for air, which of course would not be possible and more could be made of all of the characters being stuck in what would very quickly become a cramped space without any chance of escape.
Little thought seems to have been given to lighting and staging, with a number of vocal solos being sang in almost complete darkness, and lines being delivered facing away from the camera, intensifying the existing sound issues and giving the impression that what is being presented is in fact a rehearsal rather than a final performance.
The cast all have good emotional presence and bring life to their characters with effective body language and vocal intonation. When in the background, acting standards remain high, with cast members looking at their phones, reading books and eavesdropping on other people’s conversations as you would see on a real train.
Alex – Or, What Happened on the Train to London is a fun musical which is definitely worthy of further development. The cast have evidently worked very hard to put together the show after a difficult period for the arts and are visibly close-knit with strong and professional relationships. The original songs are enjoyable, and the plot is inventive and enchanting. There is a bigger story to be told here and with some extra consideration to certain elements of the performance, this could be a special piece of musical theatre.
Alex – Or, What Happened on the Train to London is being streamed by Edinburgh Fringe until 30th August 2021. Tickets are available here https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/alex-or-what-happened-on-the-train-to-london
Reviewer: Donna M Day
Reviewed: 21st August 2021
North West End UK Rating: ★★★