Menagerie are a 100-strong all-inclusive choir where membership is not determined by experience or ability but passion and commitment. A FRINGE WORLD favourite in their seventh season, it seems entirely appropriate that the Menagerie Choir should perform at FRINGE WORLD’s newest, oldest venue, the Girls School.
But don’t be duped into thinking that they are the school choir from your memories. They are far more bold and brilliant than that.
As we shuffled into the auditorium, there was barely a seat unoccupied. Moments later the choir silently entered, dressed in midnight black, some faces painted a shimmering blue, encircling the audience stands for their first hauntingly beautiful rendition, Light Years by The National.
This year’s performance is entitled Songs from a Distant Sun, with all songs united in the theme of the cosmos. The sonorous reimagining of both familiar and unfamiliar indie songs such as Supermassive Black Hole and Björk’s Cosmogony really were out of this world.
This is what music is truly meant to do; move you in ways you didn’t anticipate and introduce you to sounds you wouldn’t ordinarily explore. Menagerie expertly did exactly this throughout their performance, with their current Zookeeper Sal Banyard and the group of Arrangers thoughtfully regrouping the choir in interesting and effective ways.
The modestly-sized band delicately and unquestioningly complemented Menagerie. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about the dance choreography. Whilst the dancers demonstrated grace, elegance and overwhelming talent, for me the dancing didn’t enhance the production and was sometimes an unwelcome distraction.
That said, there were moments where the combination of dance and song was quite visually effective, such as when the dancers were hauled across the stage into the vortex created by the singers.
Menagerie Choir reminds us all of the power of community, and that strength really can come in numbers. Individually they are strong but together they are mighty.