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Fringe Favourites: Cruel Intentions the 90s Musical


Cruel Intentions
© The Other Richard

Love or hate it, nostalgia is big right now. Film directors, theatre companies, games producers, and record labels are cashing in on our desire to relive decades gone by. And why not? It's a widely known part of the human experience that we hold the biggest place in our hearts for the pop culture of our childhood and teenage years. I can't name a single Billie Ellish song (but I know who she is, I'm not that out of touch) but ask me to recite every song from Green Day's American Idiot album and I'm your girl.

So obviously the Edinburgh Fringe is chock full of acts attempting to tap into everyone's inner teenager. But the performance that is shouting the loudest (if posters could shout) is the musical adaption of Cruel Intentions

Cruel Intentions is a bit of a random film to adapt. I was just short of being a teenager in 1999, and while the film did perform well, it didn't have the same pop culture influence that Clueless or Mean Girls did. And as much as Sarah Michelle Geller was in her prime in the late 90s, these days we never really see her (see this YouTube video for a quick analysis as to why). Despite being a film I've always enjoyed, it doesn't stand out as one of the big ones. 

But the producers were smart and decided to tap into the audience's nostalgia for all things the 90s. In addition to bringing the story and dialogue to the stage, they sprinkled some of the most recognisable pop songs from the 90s into the script. We're talking Britney Spears, N*SYNC, TLC, Goo Goo Dolls, Natalie Imbruglia and the Dawson's Creek soundtrack. And they made reference to AOL Chat and other 90s peculiarities. 

Before I went into the theatre, I knew that this formula had the potential to really work...or fall flat on its face. 

Thankfully, it really worked. 

The singing from every cast member was on-point, Rebecca Gilhooley perfectly impersonated Sarah Michelle Geller's accent, Sophie Isaacs physically resembles Reese Whitherspoon, and a special shout out to Evelyn Hoskins for nailing the cringier scenes in her over-the-top take on the naive Cecile.

The musical adaptation also stays true to the original film but does soldier through it at a very quick pace (there's no interval). And as you would expect from any musical adaption, it is much campier than the original film (which wasn't very campy at all).

They performed the musical adaption in a pop-up marquee in George Square Gardens, which did mean they were limited by their performance space. Throughout the performance, they kept the same set that consisted of two chaise lounge-style benches (which wouldn't have looked out of place in the original film). A great set is difficult to acquire if you're limited by cost or space. And sometimes stretching a production budget to create visual set changes can make the audience painfully aware of how little budget you have (or at least it can for me). But the decision to make just one setup work for the entire show simplified the performance and meant the audiences' focus was on the story.

Saying that, if this musical gains traction (which I think it will) I would love to see what they could do with a proper stage set up and team. But I'm thankful the kept it simple at this stage. 

Was it a high-brow Shakespearean play? Absolutely not. Was it fun? Hell yes. If fun pop songs make you break out in a rant about manufactured bands who don't write their own songs, then Cruel Intentions The 90s Musical is not for you. And if you didn't live through the 90s (did you know that people born in 2000 can now legally drink alcohol? Mental) then some of the references might be lost on you. 

But if you like the original film and still boogie in your room to the Backstreet Boys, then Cruel Intentions The 90s Musical comes highly recommended. 
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