Daniel Holden with permission for Varsity

“There was nothing wrong with Joseph Stalin / That couldn’t have been solved by a Carling”

A bold slogan, but not wholly uncharacteristic of the work of jingle writer Colin (Tom Hayes), whose moral compass can only be described as… lacking. His willingness to write jingles for more controversial companies has made him invaluable to his boss Holofernes (Xander Pang). It has also made their company the target of Greenpeace campaigners, led by Jasmine (Maddie Smith) and her friend Parsley (Emily Huxter).

Neither Colin nor Holofernes are even remotely bothered by environmental concerns; yet when Colin wakes up unable to speak in anything but jingles, it seems (in a beautifully ironic set-up) that Jasmine is the only cure. As he attempts to balance his developing friendship with Jasmine with the demands of his job, toe-tapping chaos ensues. The ensemble is rounded out by the indomitable Joe Giles on the keys, playing everything from jazzy underscoring as the audience enters to accompaniments for all the songs.

“Alix Addinall’s choreography was a particular highlight of the production”

All five performers keep up the energy and pace of this show; while this is always a challenge for a small ensemble, Mimi Pattinson’s creative staging not only fits beautifully into the Fringe venue, but creates a fluidity to the scenes and storylines. Equally, Alix Addinall’s choreography was a particular highlight of the production, flowing naturally from the non-musical dialogue and incorporating the personality of each character.

“The show never for a second feels flat”

All four characters are in many ways caricaturist, and ultimately ridiculous, yet the heart of both the script and the actors makes it impossible not to invest in them. Even Holofernes, who could easily be reduced to a typical sleazy boss, wins over the audience with the sheer earnestness of ‘Pinky Swear’ (unquestionably Rawlins and Venebles’ stand-out song). Each comedic beat is wholly committed to, either as a wry nudge to the audience or as a wholly genuine comment from a character, and even when a character is left alone onstage, the show never for a second feels flat.

The songs are as catchy as one would hope from a musical about jingles, and the script hits comedic beat after beat whilst gently reminding the audience of the more serious moral questions that lie at the heart of the show. It is in many ways a highly ambitious script: despite not leaning too heavily on its more serious topics, it strings together a vast number of sub-plots for a short musical.


Mountain View

Advertising faces the music in Jingle Street

Yet while this allows each actor to individually shine, the impossibility of resolving every sub-plot in an hour meant that what could have been an exciting twist-ending felt a little unsatisfying. A weaker musical could have gotten away with closing down all the plot-lines simultaneously - but the quality of the sub-plots meant that their lack of resolution left me a little bitter about the emotional investment I gave them. Jasmine’s determination to ‘love a lost cause’ is never truly challenged, nor is Colin’s turn to environmentalism proved to have any motivation beyond spending more time with Jasmine.

My criticism of the musical, however, is decidedly the product of much retrospective contemplation. Indeed, as I left Jingle Street, humming under my breath, my only complaint was how frustratingly catchy that Carling jingle was…