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While waiting in the bar ahead of the penultimate Saturday show of Nathaniel Brimmer-Beller's In Everglade Studio at The Hope Theatre you could feel the vibrations from the rock band in the basement. Adorning the walls of the bar are posters from the glory days of British rock and pop music, with some of the artists, like The Specials, having played at The Hope; this seemed apt considering the theme of this show.


In Everglade Studio had an amazing Edinburgh Fringe in 2023 and it's not hard to see why audiences and reviewers have connected with Brimmer-Beller’s play. Set during a long recording session in a dingy London basement studio in 1974. In Everglade Studio explores the complex relationship between two musicians and their manager as they discover they are in a race against time to finish their latest album. Joining singer Skye, Emily Moment, musician Baron, Aveev Isaacson, and manager Clarke, Brimmer-Beller, is Matilda, Hannah Omisore, a young, black singer, writer, and arranger who Clarke has brought into the session to give Skye’s country-themed album a little bit of soul. As the session progresses, tension between Skye and Matilda, as well as between Baron and Clarke, grows. Unbeknownst to them, there are toxic compounds within the walls of the studio that have been, very slowly, causing them all to go mad.


At the core of this work are two believable, fully rounded, and intriguing female characters, Skye and Matilda. On one hand one can pass off Skye as just being a racist, but for me that’s too easy, there is a lot more to her character than her simply being a racist. Interestingly, the play is set in 1974 at a Central London studio; imagine Greek Street or near the now defunct Warner Bros. De Lane Lea studios on Dean Street, around the corner from Ronnie Scott’s. For an artist like Skye having black singers in her sessions wouldn’t really have been that big of an issue; Clarke, their manager, after all, is a black man.


In this period, artists like Paul Simon, notably in The Sound of Silence (Live 1973), which featured the breathtaking Jessy Dixon Singers, used black music and voices to elevate their sound. This had been going on in the music industry since before Elvis, which only adds to Clarke's decision to bring Matilda in on the session, adding some cultural cache. But we have to also be mindful of Skye’s intentions towards Matilda. When we first meet Skye, she’s already worn out and exhausted, and they've likely been down in that subterranean studio for hours, their bodies now showing signs of the toxic poisoning. When Matilda comes in, there is a youthful, polite, grateful, and wholesome innocence that emanates from her which is electrifying. Nervous but deeply enamoured by Skye for Matilda, it's clear, she’s meeting one of her musical heroines.

"Moment and Omisore are a remarkable duo who have forged a connection with Skye and Matilda that is inspired."

​After a fracas, Skye, Matilda, and Baron begin recording their first song together, which is nothing short of heavenly. Moment and Omisore’s voices combine in a way that creates this musical moment that is genuinely breathtaking. The nerves that Matilda might have been feeling and Skye’s less than subtle passive aggressiveness all subside as the audience hears what could have been. There’s a care in the way Omisore joins Moment on the harmonies, never wanting to overshadow Skye but allowing Matilda to show she’s got the skills to be in the same room as Skye. Of all the songs, this is the only one that Skye sings with Matilda that comes from the heart. Matilda, having already established she's a fan of Skye has this look of admiration for Matilda towards Skye that is touching. This, inevitably, making what happens later all the more brutal and cruel, with Moment and Omisore making their characters so real and authentic that you feel their pain.

The strength of In Everglade Studio lies in the relationship between Skye and Matilda. You’re left with questions that actually add to the play rather than detracting from it, which is rare in theatre of this calibre. Skye is a singer I feel has made it but is now clawing at either a comeback or another hit. Her music is a poisoned challis; she has a gift, a beautiful voice, and lyrics that touch the heart, but the music industry is cruel, demanding more and more of artists and offering only slight moments of pleasure or rewards. Singers like Skye are forced to churn out music, adapt their styles to fit audiences changing tastes, and have executives who are eager to replace them with younger singers. In this we begin to understand the animosity Skye has towards Matilda, as competition driven by her fear rather than just bigotry. The toxic air Skye’s been breathing brings to the forefront some of these hidden racist ideals that, for 1974, wouldn’t have needed to be hidden. So it's after their first song Skye seeks to prove her dominance over Matilda which further adds to the tension between them. 

Even now that I am writing this, I can still feel the pain that was etched on Matilda’s face as she continues with the session. Matilda, heartbroken at discovering who her heroine is, now deflated with her love and passion for music all but over. It's not impossible to imagine that if the outcome of the night was different Matilda probably wouldn't record music again. The last song between Skye and Matilda is masterfully performed. Every time the trio perform it felt like a real session, with Moment and Omisore’s voices punctuating the air brilliantly. There is great wisdom, compassion and sorrow in Isaacson's music coupled with Brimmer-Beller lyrics that forges this meaningfully connection between Skye and Matilda.  It's through these songs that writer/director Brimmer-Beller tackles some of the salient themes within his play that also allows the audiences to take a moment to really listen to what Skye and Matilda are singing.

Moment and Omisore are a remarkable duo who have a connection with Skye and Matilda that is inspired. Throughout the play, both Skye and Matilda slowly begin to show signs of the poisoning with the playwright, rather cleverly suggesting there may be other reasons why they might be acting funny. This was a good misdirection that also gave the audience a chance to appreciate their changing state of mind, which also added to the sessions slightly chaotic running. 


In Everglade Studio, all one sees is Skye and Matilda, and I think there is a strength here to turn this into a two-header, this isn't meant to be a slight against Baron and Clarke, not in the least. Brimmer-Beller’s text is richly written and observed, and though we don’t really get a great insight into Clarke or Baron, I feel this might have been the intention as our focus never leaves Skye and Matilda.

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