Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Quippodrome @ Gullivers, 09.5.16

One doesn't really know what to expect from a night labelled Quippodrome. The website, scarce and intriguing, offers little explanation. A video plays in the centre of the website of past Quippodrome evenings and I'm immediately thinking of early Mighty Boosh. Homemade costumes, silly looking characters, exaggerated acting.

From the offset, the evening was welcoming. Compares Jack Evans, and Edy Hurst invite the audience to feel relaxed, and assure us that the evening is probably going to fail. But when it fails, it also works. The performers, clearly well versed in comedy, quickly manage to pick themselves up, find a response, and even on this occasion, lecture about Kangaroos killing Dingoes; all to bemused laughter. It's a journey for both the audience and the performers and not your regular comedy night.

The evening continues with Chris Cantrill who has established himself around the UK as a comedian with a penchant to see the funny side in life's (sur)real stories. His set changes the pace a little, but the laughs keep coming.

After a short interval, we're welcomed back for the main event, The Quippodrome. The four players, Jack, Edy, Jayne and Jon perform a variety of characters and vignettes, worthy of early Channel Four (or when Channel Four was good|). It even kicks off with a very Adam & Joe-esque title card and Evans’ Detective Inspector Horse-hand, who wouldn't look out of place on Vic Reeves Big Night Out. D.I. Horse-hand (a Holyrood experiment if you were wondering) spins his surreal yarn about a whole menagerie of weird equine-hybrid Scots people, and the audience loves it.

The melee of other characters who appear on stage in unique, original acts continue. Dr. Love (yes, we've all heard of him, but we've never actually met him!) gives us some tips on the best sex positions, all with brilliantly graphic drawings.

"It's ok, the perspective may be skewed, but she has breasts, so…"
The segue between the Crane Position and the Fraser Crane Position drew the biggest laughs. We're literally taken on a rollercoaster in the next act with a great use of a web-cam, a stick, and a couple of straws. This part of the show seemed like a metaphor for the whole evening, with its twists and turns, the ups, and the downs, and, of course, the failures (I'd suggest gaffer taping the extension lead!).

The evening is drawn to a close with a wonderful character from the comedic brain of Jayne Edwards. After all the high testosterone, it's a welcoming relief to see Jayne, and her ‘pube art’ will stick in my mind like... well, like a pube sticks in your teeth. Confidently Jayne’s character informs us of how to make it in the porn industry when she was directing. A surreal little story that wonderfully re-introduces the rest of the characters back on stage.

Overall, I've not seen anything like this before. These guys have worked the circuit, and got bored with the scene. They may be doing this for the love of comedy, and I hope they are, because that rawness and passion, and the laughs they gave the whole audience was worth way more than the door price. So much so, I'm going back next month.

Words: Colm Feeley

Friday, 6 May 2016

Murder She Writes @ Kings Arms, 5.5.16

To quote a fellow Scot, "there's been a murdurrrrrrr!" In fact, there's been a fair few in Cabot Cove and the residents have finally realised that the link is one Jessica Fletcher; author and amateur sleuth, always around when foul play is afoot. However, we are going to see dear Jessica in a brand new light, with Vertigo Production's Murder She Writes.

TV series of 264 episodes starring Angela Landsbury, Murder She Wrote is the inspiration to this OTT pastiche, along with Baywatch, Columbo and Twin Peaks. Filling the shoes of Landsbury, Dale Vicker commandingly dons a wig and cardie to bitch his way through two insane hours of whodunnit, complete with saucy songs, outrageous characters and triple entendres.

Stuart Reeve adds more drag to the mix with his League of Gentlemen style grotesque Gramma Frank. There's solid work from Richard Allen as a knock-off Hoff, and Ash Preston as Columbo.

Subtle this ain't and although the rest of the cast ham it up for all they're worth, it did feel like self indulgent fun among mates at times. Sound issues with the backing tracks also meant the lyrics were easy to miss causing some of the songs to fall a bit flat and seem rushed.

Gloriously trashy though it undoubtedly was, the script raised more titters than belly laughs and it needed to be a lot tighter. It just about stayed on the right side of offensive, rather than adult panto but maybe tipping even more into the abyss would have harvested more humour.

It's a fun romp though and Vertigo always come up with something different which is to their credit.  
Lord knows what they would have made of Midsommer!

Words: Drew Tosh

Photos: Courtesy of Craig Hepworth 

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Avenue Q @ The Palace, 3.5.16

Being a Twentysomething isn't short of ironies; you hate coffee but it’s your favourite beverage to drink in copious daily amounts. You’re in unpayable debt after getting a degree for a job you hoped would leave you never needing for anything, and there’s everyone’s favourite; already having the experience where you’re not experienced. Ultimately, you’re stuck somewhere between an adult and a child, working the gap between your big dream and the current pays-the-bills job. What can be said of the Twentysomething of today, is that we are adaptable and persistently know the only way to survive this quarter life crisis is to keep making new plans; hopefully ones that make us as happy as we were as kids. Can you remember how happy you were watching weekend cartoons, or Seasame Street? What if you could feel like that again?

At the Palace theatre, sitting in front of fresh faced musical theatre students the lights went down and two screens flicked into life, depicting a sickeningly happy cartoon sunshine as the company flourished into the opening number of Avenue Q.

The abundantly talented cast made it easy for the audience to suspend their disbelief and fall in love with the 11 puppet characters. The actors themselves become essentially invisible; it is the puppets that carry the identity and the spotlight. You may expect to find Big Bird, but we are not on Seaseme Street anymore. Instead we meet Princeton (Richard Lowe), a recent college graduate who finds himself wandering onto Avenue Q with a BA in English and eager to find his 'purpose’. There he meets the colourful (literally) and exceptionally funny characters that live there. All the residents are finding life to be a bit disappointing, but come to accept that this feeling of loss is “only for now” while they journey to their aspirations. 
A huge hat tip goes to Sarah Harlington who played the role of Kate Monster and the infamous Lucy the Slut, for her impeccable vocal ability. Other credit goes to my forever favourite characters, Gary Coleman (Etisyai Philip) and the deliciously devious Bad Idea Bears (Jessica Paker). 

The UK tour cast have brought back the essence intended by music and lyric writers Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx, which deserves huge congratulations. The production is ultimately a 'coming of age’ story and uses the Seasame Street metaphor as a device to satirize the anxieties felt going from childhood to adulthood. As children we are encouraged by such characters that we can be anything we want to be and build high aspirations, but fail to be told how disappointing life can be and that in life sometimes our options are limited. This is a sign of the times, and it is something every person in the theatre has felt or is still feeling - actors included. This point really hit home for me listening to the undergrad musical theatre students behind me, imagining that “one of us could be in this programme one day. Such and such, Arden school of theatre.” Unbeknownst to them I am already a graduate and it took me 3 years to land my first paid acting job with a longer wait for a second. But who am I to tell them life isn't that easy?  This powerhouse of a musical was doing a fine job of it, and by the same token the entire cast and creative team endured the same difficulties, but now have this success.

Avenue Q is bright, bold and ballsy. Funny where it needs to be, with a heart that is accessible to everyone. It can be easy to undermine musical theatre as just a sing-a-long 'isn’t everything great’ two-hour experience, but if you dig a little deeper and listen to what the writers, directors and actors have placed in front of you, you will see that this show is made of better fluff…I mean stuff 

Words: Kate Morris 

Photos: Matt Martin Photography