FRESHER The Musical

Wed 8th – Sat 11th February 2012


Hannah Buckley

at 22:47 on 8th Feb 2012



Freshers' week is one of the craziest, most memorable weeks of any student’s life. When I first thought of a musical portraying this, I honestly thought there was no way it could be done. I was completely wrong. From the beginning about first impressions to the end about the best years of your life, everything you can think of to do with university is incorporated into Fresher The Musical. Even socially awkward situations are present, such as Hayley (played by Izzy Osbourne) dealing with drinking games when she is teetotal and Basil (played by Maxwell Spence) having difficulties telling the others he is gay. The story is life-like, hilarious and a has a little cheese - amazing how this is all told in just over an hour without feeling too rushed!

Although the play is fantastically written, it would turn to nothing without an excellent cast. The musical director (Chris Guard) and the rest of the band I highly applaud, all of them were excellent (I particularly liked the electric guitar). The syncopated, edgy music throughout kept the musical lively and constantly drove it forward, reminding me of the hectic blur that was Freshers' Week. The music was often busy and difficult, but the band and the singers pulled it off brilliantly. The only thing which was a bit of a shame was the sound. The microphones for the singers the whole way through needed to be a bit louder, especially for the girls, because at times all that could be heard was the band.

Although this was a problem, the clarity of singing from all 5 characters did get most of the lyrics of the songs across, which were as funny and witty as the lines. One of the best songs was Charlie Warner's ‘Rupert's Lament’. The charisma he portrays with a most amazing voice makes it one of the funniest numbers in the musical and the audience did not stop laughing. As a character, Rupert is very eccentric, if slightly socially inept, and has a heart of gold. He is instantly lovable from the moment he talks of his nickname ‘Pie’ to when he reacts to his beloved Ally (played by Elissa Churchill) having sex with Basil.

Basil’s character was hard to play, and Maxwell Spence did well to maintain sarcasm so it was funny without it being too much. Even when he was in the background, him and the other ‘lads’ did a really good job of staying in character even though they were not speaking - sometimes the laughs from the audience were because of what was happening at the back of the stage rather than what was at the front. His song was a particularly difficult number, and he pulled it off brilliantly.

Ally is a strong-headed girl used to getting her own way, and gets very moody when she doesn’t. Elissa Churchill did an excellent job of playing her, and really has the qualities of a leading lady. Her voice is absolutely amazing, full of soul and depth and is so powerful. Even at the end when she had difficulties with her mike her singing could still be heard. Ally is most comical in her lusting after Tuc (Timmy Fisher), a cheeky chappy who describes himself as a lady’s boy. Tuc himself owned the stage, becoming the obvious leader of the group as ‘one of the lads’ yet flirty with the girls. He portrayed the comical lines subtly, but still enough to get a good laugh.

The last character of the group was Hayley (Izzy Osbourne). Hayley is a quiet, down-to-earth northerner who at first is just bossed around by Ally. Izzy Osbourne had a hard job with Hayley’s songs, especially the duet with Timmy Fisher because there was a danger of one singing and one talking at the same time getting too muddled. However, like all the songs the clarity came through. Izzy has the most beautiful, sweet voice and she sang wonderfully throughout the show.

All in all, Fresher The Musical has everything that is involved in uni life. From chundering to fraping, it’s all there, and its comedy value cannot be stressed enough. I had a grin on my face from the beginning to the end. The acting was superb, the songs and storyline are well-written and the orchestra gets you into that mad, hectic party atmosphere that was present in Freshers' Week. Its a brilliant way to reflect on your own Freshers' Week, whether it was months or years ago, with a real feel-good ending as well.


Julie Fisher

at 01:06 on 9th Feb 2012



It was an incredibly enthusiastic audience who turned out for the opening night of Fresher: The Musical, culminating in the first standing ovation which I have ever witnessed in a Durham theatre - not that the DSU is technically a theatre, but more on that later! That in itself certainly spoke for the quality of the performance which we had been treated to. With direction by Doug Gibbs and Chris Guard, and Nat Goodwin taking on the role of producer for the first time, Tone Deaf Theatre Company have done an excellent job in bringing the show which wowed the Edinburgh Fringe to Durham for the first time.

The script, which was written by Sally Torode, with music and lyrics by Mark Aspinall, is witty and well-paced, and although it is exaggerated for comic effect, there are moments which we will all remember from our own freshers' week. In a nutshell, the musical tells the story of five freshers arriving at university for the first time. Ally (Elissa Churchill) and Rupert (Charlie Warner) are the posh ones, although Rupert thinks that he's 'street'; Tuc (Timmy Fisher) is the lad; Hayley (Izzy Osborne) is the shy one; and Basil (Maxwell Spence) is the geeky one with the big secret.

The programme notes that the show had been put together rather hurriedly, but this did not show in the performance. The actors were professional, talented, and, perhaps most importantly, seemed to be having a wonderful time on stage. This being a musical, there was singing as well as acting, and Charlie Warner even entertained us with two raps (poorly executed, but intentionally so). With such a small cast, all of the actors were crucial to the performance and they all worked well together, but Elissa Churchill's vocal talents were of particular note, especially in the song 'That's a Sign'.

Unfortunately, although the music was of excellent quality, there appeared to be a problem with the microphones which meant that it sometimes drowned out the voices of the singers. The microphones also crackled periodically, which detracted from my enjoyment of the performance. However, the fact that this and a few missed notes during the penultimate song 'The Way We Are' are the only criticisms which I can make of this musical is yet another testament to its quality.

In terms of location, the DSU was an unusual choice, and one which could have caused problems with vision had you been seated too near the back, but a fitting one given the subject matter. In the club scene, when technical director Daniel Gosselin produced smoke and strobe lights, it was almost like being back in one of the DSU's long-dead club nights. The stage was furnished with a bar and two sofas, which the actors moved around themselves at the beginning of each scene. Props were also frequently re-used, the main requirements for most scenes being vodka bottles and plastic cups. The eye was not drawn to the props anyway, but to the actors, who were frequently performing in the background even when they were not required to speak.

The seventy or so minutes which the actors spent on the stage raced by, and during them I laughed, cheered, applauded, and generally enjoyed the excellent performance I was watching. For a trip down memory lane, or simply a good laugh, I would recommend Fresher: The Musical.



Joe Leather; 9th Feb 2012; 11:22:36

Just to flag up on Hannah Buckley's review, you have the cast member's names the wrong way round: Charlie Warner played Rupert, Maxwell Spence played Basil.

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