A new musical at the Fringe which handles its difficult material and constraints well – a pleasant morning performance. Katherine Knight reviews The Art Of Skipping:

A new musical at the Fringe is always an ambitious undertaking. Given the constraints of its venue, The Art of Skipping handles its material well, with composer Megan Hughes wisely opting for a single keyboard rather than an entire band. The simple melody provides a more effective, pleasant background to the domestic story, allowing each voice and message to ring loud and true.

Writer Eleanor Griffiths deals with difficult topics sensitively and respectfully – a diagnosis of blindness is handled through a quiet dance segment rather than a bold statement, capturing the inexplicability of the moment with more nuance than could be done with words. While other dance segments are harder to understand, they work well as transitions and add a sense of free-flowing movement to the piece.

The Art Of Skipping pulls away from its astronomy narrative in the middle, instead focusing on the trauma that arises from the diagnosis. It does well in exploring the complex, often contradictory, emotions that can arise from a surprise diagnosis at a young age, as well as the emerging support networks. Griffiths’ characters are not always pleasant, but they never become completely distanced from the audience.

However, there is some confusion as the two girls attempt to ‘live their youth’ in a hurried sequence – although getting matching tattoos is a likely candidate for anyone’s bucket list, it’s unlikely to be allowed after you have drunk half a bottle of rum. And, while getting drunk may seem like the pinnacle of a good time when you’re in your teens, it hardly seems likely as a university student. But these are minor points, and there is a strong chemistry between the two lead actresses, with a strong supporting performance from a very realistic mother, “you came from my body” and “this isn’t meddling, this is in intervention!” both ring familiar and true.

Protagonist Alex (Lisa MacGregor) bounds around the stage with near-endless energy. Her enthusiasm for her subject is wholly believable: a small squeal after showing a list of “new Kepler candidates”. It is a welcome surprise to find a small cast with a range of ages, adding a necessary balance and maturity to the piece. It is also pleasant to hear from all perspectives involved in the story, both together and alone, with solos and duets allowing each cast member to showcase their impressive vocal talents.

Overall, The Art Of Skipping is an impressive piece of new writing that handles its space well, and a very pleasant way to spend a morning at the Fringe.

★★★☆☆

The Art Of Skipping is now playing at Greenside @ Nicolson Square until 24 August 2019. For more information or to buy tickets, please visit the festival website.