Tuesday, July 5

Seven Against Edinburgh – Royal Lyceum Theatre

Seven Against Edinburgh takes us on a journey of sisterhood. Jo’s got undisguised endometriosis, Sasha has lost her mother, Nell is trying to take her rock band to the next level, Isla is fighting for more recognition for women in STEM and Gabby’s trying to get her feminist society off the ground. On the same streets in the 19th century, the Edinburgh Seven, were fighting for their right to study and graduate in medicine. Led by Sophia Jex Blake, the seven were the first matriculated university students in the UK, and their fight to study was supported amongst the greats, including Charles Darwin. Seven Against Edinburgh runs in two timelines. As the seven school friends uncover their stories of their heroes, their own friendships feel the pressure.

This is an incredibly talented young cast who shine under the direction of Becky Hope-Palmer, Sophie Howell and young director Olivia McGeachy. Performing in the round is a huge challenge for any performer, but these seven are exceptionally at home in their surroundings. Also written by Hope-Palmer, this writing is a fantastic stomping ground for young actors cutting their teeth on one meaty production. And, as the one-time home of Pride and Prejudice Sort Of, The Lyceum is a brilliant place for this writing to shine.

Seven Against Edinburgh runs in two timelines. As the seven school friends uncover their story, the audience is taken back in time to the uncover each of their narratives. And these inspiringly energetic performers do a fantastic job wading between the two periods, capturing the tension of the court case at St Giles Cathedral following the Surgeon Hall Riot, to the absolute euphoria of The Patriarchy Slayer’s first gig. Leading the gang, Fiza Owais shows great depth as Sasha, balancing the emotional narrative of the character’s grief with her role as pioneering Sophia Jex Blake. Isla Campbell’s Nell is a hilarious band leader, full of witty quips one liners and flare. Campbell’s performance is a comic triumph. This is contrasted beautifully against the quiet sensitivity of Orla Bayne’s Mac who also gives a touching performance as Mathilda. Meanwhile Sophie Kayembe gives a spirited performance as Isla and shines in the vocal numbers- she’s one to watch.

As well as being humorous, fresh, and downright uplifting for the soul, Seven Against Edinburgh comes with a cracking score which gives ample opportunity for this cast to showcase their vocal and instrumental talents. We’re treated to some energetically executed numbers jam-packed with close knit harmonies. Iona Kellock’s Gabby may be serving up some justified frustration in the dialogue, but her soulful singing is equally a delight addition in the rock-heavy numbers. Mia Haden’s Jo also is a vocal highlight supported by a strong performance as Jo. The musical moments are underpinned by performers Mya Gray and Ella Williams whose musicality cuts through. There’s some unbelievable talent at work here.

Performing against a backdrop of Edinburgh street signs and anatomy, the set is undeniably Edinburgh, evoking the curiosities of vintage shops, anatomy studios and the quirkiness of Edinburgh Fringe shows. Mela Cywnar has cooked up a very cozy homespun feel that compliments this quirky production with costumes that celebrate all the spectrum of youth subcultures.

So why are there more statues of animals than of women in Edinburgh? This production is a well-executed educational step inside one of the most significant chapters of Edinburgh’s history and must see for everyone.

And on a personal note, I’d love to see more from this new emerging company.

This production runs until Saturday 23rd April at the Lyceum Theatre studios, https://lyceum.org.uk/whats-on/production/1774

Reviewer: Melissa Jones

Reviewed: 19th April 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★

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