Review: La Nela De Socartes (Edinburgh Fringe, online)

Greggory Nekrasovas and Mass Cicio’s acclaimed debut musical La Nela De Socartes will make its festival debut at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe for a strictly limited engagement on August 7 and 8. It is a remounting of the original 2020 virtual production and will be available to stream for free.

An uplifting, romantic musical based on Benito Perez Galdos’s novel Marianela, published in 1878. Translated from the Spanish by Clara Bell, it has now become La Nela De Socartes.

Produced by Nekrasovas and Cicio Arts in affiliation with the College of Performing Arts at Rowan University, La Nela De Socartes is directed Greggory Nekrasovas and represents several years of planning on the adaptation.

The story is one of love, romance and betrayal, and you really need some knowledge of the source material to navigate the plot and characters of this digital show. Once you have that basic grounding (there is a digital programme available) you can just sit back and watch the tale unfold.

Screencap from La Nela de Socartes

With characters appearing in seperate windows, and fixed backgrounds to orientate us, this show does not try to be a full filmed production in any way. Performances are generally strong, but the true scope of the tragedy of the life of street waif Marianela, Pedro the blind man who loves her voice, and the beautiful Florentina, would definitely benefit from a real theatre setting. You may recognise some echoes of this tale in the Charlie Chaplin film from 1931, City Lights, in which the tramp helps the pretty girl to see.

This kind of musical (especially one at 2 hours plus) can often be lost on screen so should perhaps be viewed as a simple representation of the piece: I am sure on stage audiences can connect more easily to the emotional drama. Here, the story is well-written and signposted through the music, but it lacks something in scope and spectable. Clearly, though, it has been a long labour of love and this musical still has a journey to complete on a live stage.

The music is strong, vibrant and beautiful – brought to life by a company of eleven performers (Frank Montoto, Bruno Giraldi, Daniela Delahuerta, Alexander Brown, Katrice Gavino, Isabella King, Imran Hylton, Sean Patrick Murtagh, Milagros Colón,  Gustavo Wons, and Katlin Svadbik.

I recommend this piece if you are interested in musicals developed from literary sources, and particularly for the performances of Daniela Delahlueria (Marianela), Bruno Giraldi (Pablo) and Katlin Svadbik (Florentina).

Fringe rating: ***