In Everglade Studio makes its Edinburgh Fringe debut with a vivid mix of comedy and discomfort. Snappy dialogue, some excellent acting chops, and toe-tapping original music and covers make it an intriguing watch.

All set in one room in one night in London 1974, In Everglade Studio tells the story of three young musicians and their manager who enter a recording studio deep underground. They slowly peel away their public selves as they are driven insane by the toxicity of the walls. English singer Skye wants to be the next icon in Americana music, and to help her do that and appeal to a wider demographic, slick manager Clarke enlists the writing and musical arrangement skills of Matilda, a Black British musician with a pure sweet voice. Percussionist Baron provides the melodies, along with comedic relief and screw-The-Man rock ‘n roll energy in frequent conflicts with the other characters. What starts off as a musical about big dreams turns into a commentary about racial politics, which is a fitting discussion considering the appropriated roots of the musical genres in question.

The focus of the play is on Matilda and Skye, as they battle for prominence on the mics and over their identities. At times, an hour seems too short to cover such a complex topic, while it seems stretched when rising tensions turn into farce. The ideas are there – and appealing – and the snappy dialogue elicits laughs. There are some striking moments too: emotions are split down the centre of the stage as Skye’s shining eyes in the song ‘She Caught the Townsman Ferry’ form a sharp contrast to Matilda’s obvious unease. But overall, the characterisation feels representative rather than layered. How can one empathise with Skye, as stunning as her vocals are, if her beliefs are unjustifiable? What is Clarke, besides a fast-talking manager whose priority is the cash, no matter the cost?

The poisoning is a great vehicle to allow their masks to drop and the underlying tensions to take surface, leading to a horrific crescendo. The last twenty minutes seem like a fever dream, encapsulating well the toxins in their bodies. However, the action ends suddenly and unexpectedly, leaving us with more questions about their fates.

The play will definitely lead to discussions after the action has long ceased, and you will find yourself humming to the music. Perhaps a longer stage time will allow the interiority and foundations of the characters to flourish further.

In Everglade Studio runs till 28 Aug 2o23 at Assembly George Square Gardens – The Box at 13:00