A cappella is back. In recent years Glee and Pitch Perfect have rescued an arcane genre from parents’ Guild choirs and barbershop quartet and made it tell a story, made it a weapon in a sing-off, and most of all, have made it funny. We Need to Talk, the concert-come-comedy-sketch-show extravaganza from Sweet Nothings, is modern a cappella at its very best.
We Need to Talk explores the various ways people deal with breakups and the impact the recovery of the heartbroken has on their friends. Chart hits such as Telephone and Just Dance are woven into a narrative that gives the whole show shape and direction, but the comedy sketches that it comprises of are far from a gimmick. The comic timing and acting was as strong as the vocal performances, and this made me quite nervous given that this a cappella seemed to be funnier than the comedy sketch show I was at the Fringe to perform in.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of We Need to Talk is its staging of the ‘stereotypical girls’ response to a breakup. Sweet Nothings create a range of hilariously jealous, neurotic, obsessive characters who are fun to laugh at but totally absurd and two-dimensional; the effect of this is that the character of the ‘stereotypical girl’ is shown to be just that, a fictional character – a misogynistic myth that only really exists on stage.
My personal highlight was a scintillating performance of Adele’s Hello which proved that Sweet Nothings can do serious, as well as funny. In the Glee and Pitch Perfect era of television and film audiences now expect so much more from an a cappella show than music alone. However, the cinematic range of emotions and virtuosic range of abilities on show makes We Need to Talk one of the most ambitious performances I saw at the Fringe. Sweet Nothings should now be rated alongside Semi Toned as one of Exeter’s best performing arts groups.