This review was originally written for EdFringeReview.com
Get Your Shit Together, a new musical comedy from students at Bristol University, is a well-written and brilliantly-scored show, which marries its catchy yet characterful songs with a quirky, off-beat humour. The whole show is brought joyously to life by a polished and talented cast. Directors Jude Mack and Max Kirk deserves enormous credit for shaping the production into such a heady cocktail of laughter and melody.
Get Your Shit Together’s plot is largely centred on Alex (Tom Glenister), a young man with a broken heart – the result of an adulterous ex-girlfriend – and two younger sisters, Lana and Annabelle (Sylvie Briggs and Hannah Kendall), to help him mend it. After a suitably morose opening number, the audience learns how Alex has been indefinitely suspended from his accountancy job after an impulsive rage-filled rampage with a staple gun, how he has been forced to move into a dingy bedsit, and how his two sisters have assigned themselves the task of helping him get his shit together.
Much of the humour stems from Lana and Annabelle’s conflicting attitudes towards Alex’s mental health. Lana’s world-wearied pragmatism is constantly at odds with Annabelle’s relentless positivism. The former is a shrewd, emotionally-unavailable twenty-something, the latter is a naïve 16-year-old, who is really stressed out about her 14 GCSEs; both are portrayed adeptly, but it is Kendall’s exaggerated innocence that is truly amusing. At one point, she offers to cheer Alex up through the use of a ‘mood board’.
Glenister is laudably glum and Eliot Salt, who plays Alex’s burgeoning love-interest Marguerite, a pizza delivery girl, is glorious in her shy, awkward excitement. It is Tom Grant’s Ernest that gains the biggest laughs, however, as the pianist and director of the on-stage musical accompaniment. The three-piece band, Ernest and The Keen Beans, sit at the back of the stage throughout, tenuously involved as a band in the pub below Alex’s new flat. They occasionally comment on the unfolding drama, and Grant is particularly funny when providing Alex with advice or berating his band for being slightly off-key with idiosyncratic camp.
Despite Ernest’s fake frustrations, Get Your Shit Together’s greatest strength is actually its book. A soaring, playful and elegant score that is delivered well by both musicians and actors alike. Memorable numbers include Alex’s sorrowful berating of the Secret Santa game that sparked his ex-girlfriend’s affair and Annabelle’s cheery song promising Alex “a new start in a new place”.
Get Your Shit Together is not exactly visually spectacular, performed on a bare stage, with a small bar to one side (the pub below Alex’s flat), and pizza boxes littering the floor opposite (Alex’s dingy ‘cave’). But, when the writing, singing, and acting are of such a standard, minor problems such as these barely register.