The Christian Music and Drama Society – CMAD – stage Stephen Schwartz and John Caird’s Children of Eden on the main stage of the Byre Theatre, 19th November 2011.

Rating: 4/5

 

Children of Eden is a musical based on the book of Genesis, with the first act telling the stories of Adam, Eve, Cain and Abel, and the second act centring on the story of Noah’s Ark. The main theme of the musical appears to be the bond between parent and child; the difficulties of parenting are echoed by the many characters that appear throughout. The desire to love and protect a child is juxtaposed with letting them be free, and this works especially well when we see a character who has previously been a child – such as Eve – have to grow into a parent. God is represented as simply ‘Father’, echoing all of the familial ties in the many generations which appear in this story. The doubling of Adam and Noah, Eve and Mama Noah and of their children is particularly effective in highlighting the continuity throughout the generations. Although this staging convention is not always followed it was one of the particular strengths of this production.

We open with Father (Fizz Redfern) creating the earth, and Adam (Adam Robbie) and Eve (Anna McDonald) being charged with naming all of the creatures. This leads to the first of many instances in which the entire company are on stage, yet thanks to some clever choreography by director Emma Hinds, the stage always feels alive, never crowded. From its opening song this musical was captivating. The music which echoes the passing of genes such as Eve and Cain’s ‘Spark of Creation’ worked beautifully with both solo singers in that each of them seemed to be tapping into exactly the same emotion, and this was indicative of a coherent directorial vision throughout.

Robbie and McDonald set the comic tone perfectly with their shy embraces and embarrassed kisses as they begin to discover they love each other as ‘more than brother and sister’. Although the first act felt a song too long, there were some wonderful performances. Despite not having a named character until the second act, Ellie Mason was an incredibly engaging performer. Most of the cast were required to play animals at some point, and this was always done with complete dedication and some wonderful attention to detail.

The second act was just as vibrant as the first, with some wonderful songs; Vicki Robertson’s ‘No Stranger to the Rain’ as Yonah the servant girl was a particular stand-out. Katy Schurr’s design aided a simple telling of the story of Noah’s Ark and allowed the stage to maintain a focus whilst still letting the chaos of all the animals meeting play out. The rousing Gospel number ‘Ain’t it Good’ had an already enthusiastic audience completely behind a wonderful show: the final performance of The Children of Eden received a standing ovation, with sporadic cheers throughout; these were fully deserved.

 

Siobhán Cannon-Brownlie

Photographer: Gillian Gamble
Publicity Design: Christy Mitchell