Hemmed In

A new musical about young inmates on a rehabilitation scheme doesn't quite sing

music review (edinburgh) | Read in About 2 minutes
Published 17 Aug 2015

This new musical about five troubled young women out of prison on a rehabilitation programme gets off to a flying start. That the premise—they must design and model their own clothes for a fashion show, overseen by a supermodel also on probation for bottling her boyfriend—is unlikely in the extreme, is knowingly acknowledged early on. And the show initially takes a scalpel-sharp sense of humour to revealing the grim social realities that might undermine a redemptive story of jailbirds improving themselves. There’s a great, sarcastic number about living on benefits that asks, “How are you supposed to restart your life on 47 quid?” Cue a long list of what such a sum could buy: “Aberdeen to Preston on the 9:30 train; eight or nine mascaras from Maybelline” – or, more darkly, one single hit...

Written by Ruth Cobbin, Hemmed In’s set-up and early songs have rapid-fire rhymes, fresh humour and clever construction. Sadly, the production is on a downwards trajectory. Songs get slushier and more sentimental as the show rapidly slides into predictability, revealing each girl’s criminal past (drugs, violence, credit card fraud), their present struggles, their hopes for the future. As they prepare for the fashion show, bonding and bickering, the dialogue often feels stilted or shrill.

Un-amplified and accompanied just by keyboard, the singing isn’t the best you’ll hear on the Fringe either, with some definite dud performances. Still, this young company of recent Scottish graduates give gutsy performances and there’s promise here – it just isn’t quite runway-ready yet.