Academy Of Death

Academy Of Death is one of two musicals at this year’s Fringe in which the major theme is body-snatching in Edinburgh in the 1820’s, the other being Burke And Hare – A Musical Play. Even after almost two hundred years, body-snatching for medical research still manages to combine horror with fascination.The story opens with young Alfred Fettes becoming an assistant to Doctor Knox. Among his tasks is to receive and pay for cadavers being delivered by John Gray. There is a never-ending need for fresh bodies for medical research so no questions are asked about where Gray obtains them. Fettes does not enjoy this part of his work but has no choice. Doctor Knox never actually appears – everything is done through his assistants, so he can distance himself from the unpleasant realities of what is happening. Fettes does, however, meet Knox’s daughter Isabella and immediately falls in love with her. She tells him that if he buys her an expensive diamond ring then she might consider marrying him, but is she serious or just joking? Of course, he has no money to do this, but what if he could find some extra bodies to sell?This is a very enjoyable and gripping production and although it is nearly two hours long the attention never flags. The acting and singing is of a consistently high standard. The costumes are particularly effective, highlighting the differences between the upper and lower classes and between the living and the dead.Aaron Cohen-Gold as Fettes manages to look both vulnerable and miserable as he follows the path towards disaster. He might become a serial killer but there’s nothing evil about him. He retains the sympathy of the audience right to the shocking end. Well worth seeing.

Reviews by Alan Chorley

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The Blurb

Body-snatching, blackmail, murder and madness! Edinburgh, 1825. Medical advances are saving lives, but as Doctor Knox's insatiable appetite for fresh cadavers grows, so does the desperation of his assistant, who is smitten with the unattainable Isabella. www.academyofdeath.com

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