Cheesy, cringe-worthy… and utterly brilliant! Fresher the Musical triggers a flood of memories – driving to your hall, carrying an endless number of boxes up too many flights of stairs, seeing your room for the first time and the onset of nerves as you embark on the biggest adventure of your life. With an outstanding cast and numerous laugh-out-loud moments along the way, this production will transport you right back to your Fresher days.
When we first meet Ally (Laura Thomson), she is slutty, wild and thinks she is the ‘Queen Bee’; Hayley (Katrina Holloway) is shy and suffering from anxiety; Rupert (Tim Watkins) is bumbling and somewhat sheltered; Basil (James McAndrew) is the butt of all jokes from the moment he arrives and the gangster-esque Tuc (Douggie McMeekin) perfects the ‘too cool for school’ image. These contrasting characters are thrown together in a setting unfamiliar to anything they have experienced before and they stumble their way through all the highs and lows of communal living away from home.
It is clear from the first song that this cast is incredibly talented. The awards for singing have to go to Thomson, Holloway and Watkins. Douggie McMeekin and James McAndrew cannot be beaten in their fantastic dance routines though, particularly the one they perform in slow motion behind Rupert’s back. Here, Director Becky Catlin chooses to inject a dose of humour into a serious expression of love; this is very entertaining and one of my favourite moments of the musical.
The set is simple but effective. Five blue doors represent four bedrooms and a kitchen and could be any corridor in any catered hall or self-contained flat, which makes the production familiar to any student. With the use of UV paint and a change of lighting, the set is transformed at the flick of a switch into a nightclub, a setting which is integral to most Freshers’ Week experiences.
The music and lyrics, written by ex-Nottingham student Mark Aspinall, greatly enhance the production as they are fun and drive the plot. Though catchy, they are not always distinct or memorable and have the tendency to blur into one. However, one song which particularly stands out is the duet between Tuc and Hayley where the lyrics overlap. This clearly conveys the feelings of each character to the audience without using extended dialogue. The backstage musicians must not be forgotten though. They have a strong presence and play with energy throughout the performance, easily matching the talent of those onstage.
The production can be improved with the addition of more Nottingham-specific references to the script, such as allusions to Ocean, Mooch and the infamous hall rivalry. The cast is also extremely small and I think there is definitely room for more parts. This would help to enhance the party atmosphere, particularly in the club scene, which feels distinctly empty.
Fresher the Musical can be shown at any university but it screams University of Nottingham as the characters play up to our raging Jack Wills versus geek-chic stereotypes. As I left the theatre, the room echoed with praise and all around me people were comparing themselves and people they know to the characters they had just been introduced to. Overall, this is a very enjoyable show and a great experience to round off the end of my own university days.