The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is now in full swing and several of our collegiate groups are currently in the middle of successful Fringe runs. In the last few days, we have managed to see the two sensational Oxford-based all-female groups, In The Pink and The Oxford Belles, and our thoughts are below.
In The Pink
Perhaps it was partly due to seeing them on the very first day of their Fringe run, but given their recent tour of Berlin and the stage experience that went with it, I was expecting slightly more from the girls from Oxford, as they had quite a shaky start to their show but did seem to grow in confidence as the gig went on and they reached seemingly more familiar arrangements.
There were naturally heaps of positives to be taken from their performance – in particular their arrangement of Damien Rice’s The Blower’s Daughter was angelically sung by Suzie Merchant and really showed off the group’s real strength in close harmony. This was further emphasised by their rendition of Pink’s F*cking Perfect, which was a hit last year and was equally good one year later, despite the huge change-around in terms of personnel since last year’s show. Other highlights included the slick dynamics in What Makes You Beautiful, Miranda Essex’s silky-smooth solo in Save Tonight, and Musical Director Becca Nicholls really leading by example and bouncing around the stage with energy and verve throughout the performance, something which the rest of the group needs to take note of, as occasionally they looked like rabbits caught in the headlights.
A few things need to be looked at, but most of them are aspects of performance that will improve naturally throughout the course of the run: there was a little bit too much step clapping in the opening number, Mercy and Rumour Has It, which admittedly did get the audience going but I have expressed my dislike for such simplistic a cappella forms in the past; the backing in Hey Soul Sister was good but did become a little repetitive, something which is difficult to avoid in this art form; the choreography during their ‘World Premiere’ of Without You/Save The World/We Found Love needed work, as several members were glancing over their shoulders to check if their instincts were correct; and the whole set lacked real ‘meat’, that wall of sound, that ‘oomph’ that groups such as Out of the Blue and All the King’s Men provide in abundance.
All in all, this was a decent start from the Oxford girls, who rely on their cutesy charm and good looks to flirt their way through what is a very strong set of arrangements. If they can sort their minor problems out, this could develop into a very impressive show.
The Oxford Belles
When I expressed my undying love for Sophie Giles’ voice after the Oxford Belles’ early evening show, she was unsurprisingly rather embarrassed, but her rendition of Jar of Hearts was and is the best a cappella solo I have heard all year. You might think that the high quality of such a solo would make the rest of the set seem mediocre, but actually the Belles have put together a show that trumps last year’s effort in almost every way.
Perhaps the most impressive was the beatboxing. Decent female beatboxers are very hard to come by, and so in Sally Potterton the girls have really unearthed a gem, and in particular her lip-trill beats at the very start of Rihanna’s S&M were extremely impressive, not to mention very hard to do. Incidentally, Gina Robinson’s powerful alto really rocked the solo on that particular number. The soloists in general were very strong, whioch was a stark contrast to last year, with particular highlights in the notoriously difficult-to-cover Beat It and Musical Direcotr Alicia Gayle’s soulful take on Sway, and the complementary dynamics swayed aptly throughout the song. I enjoyed the key change as well, but then again, I always enjoy key changes.
One particular weakness was the fact that the group only had one 1st Soprano, which at times effected the very highest harmonies, particularly when that soprano took the solo and delivered a performance that admittedly seemed a little tired and subdued. I also feel the girls could have chosen a slightly stronger closing number than Cascada’s Evacuate The Dancefloor which, while containing another confident solo from Gina Robinson, was otherwise little more than above average, and there were definitely better options with which to send the audience on their way.
These are minor niggles, though, and otherwise the Belles delighted with a thoroughly professional and slick set, with confident and at times hilarious choreography, tight musical blend and smashing solos. Love it.
In The Pink are selling their brand new album outside their concert venue, available for purchase for £7.