The Shot Heard 'Round the World

Sat 13th – Fri 19th August 2016

reviews

Richard Birch

at 10:09 on 16th Aug 2016

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This musical’s concept is an odd one, and this reviewer was concerned that it would end up an overbearing weight on the performers. However these fears were soon proven to be unfounded. With both words and music written by a trio of students (Amy Scott, Beth King and Lily Williams), this was an impressive feat; consistently well executed and managing to discuss one of the most dire events of world history in a thoughtful, poignant manner.

It does so by emphasising the human side to the story. Gavrilo (Olly Holmes) is first depicted guilt-stricken in his cell after the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand. This then triggers a flashback which forms the vast majority of the play. He goes from school where he fears unpopularity, to a bookish teen and to a naïve young idealist who is sucked into the Young Bosnians terrorist nationalist organisation by the charismatic seducer Milan (Chris Ashcroft). The intellectual backdrop is well described; the Austrian imperialism becoming irksome to the Bosnian natives.

A love interest develops shortly around this point, when he meets the daughter of the Chief of Police for Sarajevo and promptly (unwisely) develops affection for her. The best moment of the play comes from Ana’s (Antonia Forest) songs, beautifully sung; and in addition, her comic timing during the scene where Gavrilo meets her parents.

At this point, his lifelong friend and critic of Gavrilo’s growing obsession with Yugoslav nationalism named Franco (Luca Williams) enlists as a double agent – a police officer pretending to be a Young Bosnian. The acting of the entire play was strong and impassioned, with the exception of Williams whose portrayal suffered from being slightly mannered.

The tension builds as the terrorists plan to assassinate the Archduke. The plan (as those versed in World War One history will know) fails initially – assassins failed to shoot the man, bombs didn’t make their target and the car manages to accidentally avoid some of the others. Nervous and despairing, Gavrilo discovers Franco’s status as a traitor and decides to take matters into his own hands, completing the mission alone.

The ensuing guilt and regret that fills Gavrilo upon starting the war is convincingly portrayed. The musical backing throughout was strong and the new writing deserves kudos for successfully making this rather odd sounding concept work. The play is not flawless, but is an enjoyable watch and a unique piece of musical theatre.

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Ed Grimble

at 10:28 on 16th Aug 2016

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The catalyst for the greatest tragedy of the 20th century hardly springs out at one as being ripe for adaptation to a stage musical. However, this is the task which Amy Scott, Beth King, and Lily Williams set themselves in writing 'The Shot Heard 'Round the World', an original, Bildungsroman-esque work charting the rise of young Bosnian Serb Gavrilo Princip. Princip was of course the nationalist who fired the shots that killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie on 28th June 1914.

History has given the trio a thrilling narrative- and this is not squandered. Focusing on the human side to this very geopolitical story, from Princip's solitary, bookish schooldays to his rise up the ranks of the Young Bosnia group, 'The Shot Heard 'Round the World' displays a remarkable maturity and tact regarding its handling of these historical events. Indeed, the playing of a portion of the 'Last Post' took me right back to being stood under the Menin Gate in Ypres. It is a poignant end to this piece of drama.

The acting is, on the whole, of a reasonably high quality. There is an old adage in the world of musicals that no one can maintain the same levels of signing, acting, and dancing- one will always suffer at the expense of the others. This is certainly true here, where notes went astray, or acting felt unconvincing and stilted. Indeed, some of the latter is no fault of the actors; there are some moments of very dubious dialogue. However, the spectacle of the ensemble routines does more than enough to render these flaws mere flies in the ointment.

Particular praise must go to Antonia Forest (playing love interest Ana Obrenovic, who sang impeccably throughout, and to Ed Jobling and Florence Merrett who take the roles of Kristof and Jolena Obrenovic respectively. The dinner table comedy of the scene involving Jobling and Merrett is a welcome relief from the heavy politics of the rest of the musical. Pete Broughton must also be commended for his depiction of Apis, mastermind of the notorious Black Hand terror group. In a very young and fresh faced cast, Broughton brings some desperately needed weather-beaten grit. He is a wonderful anchor point for the rest of the ensemble.

'The Shot Heard 'Round the World' is then, a very competent production that I think adeptly handles events which do not lend themselves to the form of a stage musical. The writers and cast have done a largely commendable job, but unfortunate lapses in execution limit its success.

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