Reviews | Written by Ed Fortune 14/08/2022

Runesical – Edinburgh Fringe

It’s said that you can make a musical out of pretty much anything. Gigglemug Theatre certainly have tried to prove this in the past with productions such as Timpson The Musical. Their latest production is based on the free-to-play MMORPG Runescape; not just any old Runescape either, specifically the old school classic version.

If you know nothing about online fantasy games, that’s fine; not only is there a Wise Old Man to help explain the digital world of Gielinor to the audience, there is very little that needs explaining; the musical  follows the adventures of a new player so we learn as they learn.  We are introduced to Lance_054,  who is trying to escape some difficult growing pains in the real world.

Lance is keen to get on with the hero-ing and rushes through the basic levels of the game; mostly through the medium of song, before encountering a more experienced player called Odin. Along the way they pick up a third player, Pearl and though all may not be what it seems, they sing and dance their way across the world of Runescape, taking on a very dangerous quest to gain treasure and reknown across the land.

The songs are great and help the narrative flow quickly. Because this is inspired by a video game, the audience are invited to participate by picking a few options at keypoints during the show. These choices can be everything from ‘what hat does the hero wear’ to ‘which location do they go to’ and this means that the show is different every time you see it.   It also means that some of the scenes feel better rehearsed than others, but this doesn’t affect the over-all quality of the piece; it’s quite a slick production to begin with.

For fans of the actual video-game, they are plenty of references for you (which will harmlessly go over the heads of everyone else), especially early on when the adventurers go through Tutorial Island. They are plenty of visual and musical cues as well; the stage design will remind you of the game as will some of the music. It’s gracefully done; enough to delight the fans but not so much as it alienates the rest of us.

Runesical is musical magic with some very catch tunes. It's everything we wanted out of a musical based on an online roleplaying game and sets the bar for anyone attempting to do a similar thing in the future.

Runesical is running at the Edinburgh Fringe until the 28th. You can find out more by clicking on the link here.