The star of the show is Emma Katene, who composed/developed most of the songs. While the delivery doesn’t always serve the music, with some pitchy moments and a major issue with sound levels where many of the lyrics can’t be heard, the compositions are impressive on the whole. The cast does include some great voices, with standout moments being Phoebe Caldeiro and Lily-Ellen Martin-Hine each performing their beautiful self-written solos Ease My Way and Got Anxiety. The calibre of acting does not always stand up to the music, but Martin-Hine and Anna Barker both hold great stage presence throughout, and Ottilie Bleackley provides much-needed comedic relief from some of the more trying storylines.
With a lack of rewarding narrative, This is Fine does not earn its length. This isn’t to say that there is no narrative at all – in fact, it might be more accurate to say that there is too much. The show follows three or four different storylines, which I don’t mind for the first half of the show. But come the second half, the threads are tied off in isolation rather than woven together. They are not linked in any significant way other than through the general themes of social media, loneliness and a ‘she’ll be right’ attitude. So why lump them together into an attention-testing two-and-a-half hour show? At the start of a devising process the best thing you can do is throw all your ideas at a whiteboard, but there comes a time where you have to strip back the excess and just pursue a couple of nuggets. This is Fine skips this step and spreads itself too thin, and the result is that I don’t particularly care about any of the characters’ journeys and resolutions because I don’t get enough time with each of them, even though this show takes twice as much of my time as any other Fringe show.
I must give the cast and crew their due: writing an entire musical is no small feat at the best of times, and to pull that off over lockdown Zoom meetings is impressive. While This is Fine may not quite hold itself in a professional context, there is a lot to love in it as a student show. Congratulations to the company for a sold-out season. For more information or to book tickets to other shows in the festival, visit the Fringe website.