Annually we are reminded of the extensive talents of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Perhaps in reference to the ever-present shadow of a second Cold War, this time their production is the 1984 Tim Rice, Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus creation, Chess.
Set against the backdrop of the original Cold War, politicians, nations and people themselves treat each other as knights, pawns and a certain chess grandmaster’s Queen in a grander game. Subtle isn’t it? Writing on the wall aside, the narrative is solid and birthed one of the finest Barbara Dickson numbers, I Know Him So Well. Two men meet, battle and fall for the same woman. Surrounding them are insights into East-West relations, adultery and our greatest game, identity.
This evening is a visually stimulating hit for any eighties junkie. The entire scenic team, lead by Ursule Kerbedyte do a magnificent job of recreating a familiar set design but keeping it fresh. Every colour, cheesy graphic and laser effect is bombarded into the audience to drag them into the past. No choice is offered, comrade.
Daisy Ann Fletcher, recipient of the Andrew Lloyd Webber Scholarship, is our star of this evening. She displays composure with no effort, delivery and depth of emotion at the height of candour – a thoroughly natural performer. Praise too is due to Shane Convery, his Molokov is slick and reeks of every Russian antagonist from the Bond franchise.
Two conflicts ensue upon the stage. Only one, however, is plot related. Sadly, tonight’s only real issue is the constant struggle with enunciation. Tim Rice’s lyrics for this production (can be) bombastic, agile and condensed. Many individual lines are lost amongst a sea of jousting vocals. Whilst Barney Wilkinson holds his performance remarkably, generating the range and emotions required, a large portion of his delivery is lost in his diction.
Chess, apologies for the pun, is a tactical move. Its vibe feels revitalised by the current political situation, and it offers potential for creative exploration. However, its vocals encounter opponents on all fronts. Regardless of these faults though, the Royal Conservatoire should be proud of this production and every cast and crew member.