Comedy · Drama · Theatre

Day Four at the Fringe | 2017 | Reviews

"Great theatre is about challenging how we think and encouraging us to fantasize about a world we aspire to."

– Willem Defoe

My final day seeing shows at the fringe has come around, which had a nice lie-in to start the day. I decided to not dress for the weather and wear a new dress I bought from Shein (highly recommend by the way), and curl and hair and put on makeup. I did not want to think I packed my curling wand and then not use it the entire time I was up here. Anyway, I bus it into town and walked to where I was for Two yesterday to see their sister show:

1. Unexpected Electric Nativity

(written by Jared More, directed by Katie Smith)

The University of York’s drama society has put on a few versions of Unexpected Electric Nativity; once as a 10-minute play for a Writers’ Showcase, the second time as an hour-long production as part of a double bill of new writing, and lastly as a modified version for the fringe. A unique thing they kept from the second edition was producing noises using regular household items (done by Laura Burberry and Alice Rush), which was an exciting element of the play. All the set and props on stage were then mimed, which really encouraged the audience to use their imagination to their maximum.

The inciting incident starts with a technical fault that causes one of the robots (Sophie Shepherd) to wake up, and we watch her discover how to use her body and start to move around. She then wakes up the other robot (Harry Elletson) and teaches him her ways. Shepherd and Elletson both displayed infectious enthusiasm, possessing an endearing charm in their performance. The interactions between the robots were fascinating to watch but there were times when sections were dragged out for too long. The two creators of the robots (Cullum Ball and Ella Dufton) had an intriguing relationship, with good comedic timing as well as their intense dramatic moments. Whilst I do wish the technicians were more fleshed out as characters, the actors did well to give good performances.

Unexpected Electric Nativity is a great family show that young children will love. The sound effects and tech are inventive and the characters have a great charm about them. A light-hearted physical piece is what you might need out of all the harrowing plays you will see during your time at the fringe.

Caption: Robots learning to human, what's more to like?

Unexpected Electric Nativity's remaining performances are on the 16th and 18th of August, at 12.55pm at C Royale.

I had four hours to kill before my next show, so I decided to work at a nearby Costa and have a decent lunch to prepare for the evening ahead of me. The internet was hard to come by but eventually, I managed to connect to something and get started. I work away until the time came to pack up and head to the first show of my back-to-back evening of entertainment:

2. The Murderous Philanthropist of Croydon Town
(devised by the Intrepid Fools company)

I was curious enough by the title alone to buy myself a ticket after the funding campaign proved successful. The premise of the play is that Isabelle (Flora Wilson-Brown) marries the rich, serial-husband Quincey (John Chisham). She then discovers that his gentlemanly charms are only a cover for something more sinister. With the help of two-faced Jackson/Johnson (Becca King), they discover a secret far darker than they imagined.

Off the bat, I want to state that I absolutely adored this play. It is endearingly melodramatic, mocking certain tropes of theatre along the way. The musical numbers that guide us through the plot (musically directed by Alastair McNamara) are well staged and catchy. The story itself is unique and had so much packed in into a 45-minute piece, though it was the perfect length for this piece. Nothing felt too dragged out or had loose ends to plot points.

The ensemble work was well intact and unified. Becca King pulled off the two-faced role of Jackson and Johnson tremendously, having clear, in-depth character choices with both roles. Wilson-Brown was a wonderfully enchanting, beguiling ingenue, contrasting very well with Chisham's malicious Quincey. McNamara and Bethan Lahive were integral ensemble members that provided great energy and hilarity to the show.

If you want something that is original, inventive, and wonderfully whimsical, I strongly suggest you go and watch this production. I can assure you that you will have a splendid time and remember these unique characters until the next fringe.

Caption: ❤ ❤

The Murderous Philanthropist of Croydon Town is running until the 19th August, at 6.15pm at The Space @ Surgeons' Hall.

Uplifted by The Murderous Philanthropist, I headed off to Greenside for the penultimate show of the fringe trip. I tried to work on the reviews but the internet connection was dire so I decided to just browse the internet on my phone. I organised with my dear friend Elliot, a company member of Cowards and Kings, to meet up after my last show as a celebration of their first performance. After having a cup of wine at the venue's bar, I left to go to the next show:

3. The Teeth of Haros

(written by Joshua MacGregor, directed by Chomba Taulo)

A group of Rose Bruford students decided to take a brand new drama up to the fringe, after working on it for several months on campus and having a successful funding campaign. The play starts as Malcolm Ward (Elliot Mackenzie) lost in purgatory, having no memory of what happened the day he died, to then being forced by Haros to go through his memories moments before the incident. We find out his daughter, Anna, passed away after a mishap with the water supply, which is blamed on the former minister, Will (Joshua MacGregor). Primarily this piece's focus is on the forgiveness of others and the importance of family.

MacGregor's script is one of the best-written theatre scripts I have seen during my time at the fringe. The structure of the piece is clever, as it distorts time and reveals new information to the audience in every scene, even though it is not in the conventional chronological order. The characters are well-rounded and not one line felt awkward or misplaced. Taulo's direction captured the feeling of the piece and brought that distortion of memory and information reveal to life with his blocking and overall vision.

The company's performances were fantastic and it was clear everyone is passionate about the piece, and the story. Mackenzie's performance as a confused, heartbroken father was likable and had empathising qualities, even when Malcolm made flawed decisions. MacGregor's performance as Will was textured and heartbreaking to watch as he speaks to his wife, Gloria (Abigail Middleton). Taulo's performance as a paranoid and cautious vicar was captivating to watch, and also played the shared the role of Haros sternly and forebodingly. Valeria Cedillo also played the role of Haros well and was unnerving as a lost soul trapped in purgatory.

Whilst I believe the sound design could have been less choppy and more clean-cut, Teeth of Haros is a brilliantly written and directed piece with fantastic actors bringing the characters to life. Go and support some new writing and invest in these up and coming theatre creators that I am sure all have big futures ahead of them.

Caption: Great script, with heartbreaking performances ❤

The Teeth of Haros is running until the 26th August (albeit the 20th) at 7.35pm at Greenside.

I make my way out of Greenside, and head to what seems to be a fancy hotel on North Bridge. I am quite early but I safely assume there is no time/internet to do any work, so I browse on my phone for the remaining time. The queue starts to form, and as I enter it and start to banter with a woman in front of me about how we are all paying a ticket to die, I get ready to see what my last show at the fringe has in store.

4. We’re All Going to Die

(written by Jake Bolton, directed by Kaia Nisbet)

Spoilers ahead folks, the play's premise is that everyone dies at some point. That is what sold me when I was browsing through the fringe programme online, a new black comedy about a group of adults trapped in the ice-cold Arctic, watching them all die off from hypothermia, one-by-one. With unique, distinct characters, this ensemble piece looked to be interesting.

Unfortunately, I was severely underwhelmed by this comedy. The script had weak punchlines and had a full company of 2D characters with a lack of texture. Whilst it is fine to have characters that are like that, there was not a clear choice to accentuate that and the choice to play it naturalistically made the dialogue a lot weaker because of it.

We never know know why a bunch of seemingly ill-informed youngsters are trapped in an Arctic research base, yet we are expected to go along for the ride. As each character dies off from hypothermia, the play becomes formulaic; a somewhat funny scene, followed by a big reveal that another person has died, and the pattern continues. There is no big climax to the piece, leaving the ending threadbare and dull. Whilst there were actors who did well with the text given, like Sade Soares and Toby Bolton, most of the jokes fell flat.

Whilst this production did show some promise, the script primarily was what let the show down. It was not that it was a script I hated per se, but more that it did not leave any impact on me, which in my eyes is the most disappointing theatre.

Caption: It lacks… lustre.

We're All Going to Die is running until the 19th August at 9.05pm at The Space on North Bridge.

Whilst my last show at fringe may have been a dud for me, I immediately met up with Elliot and the rest of the Cowards and Kings company and had a wonderful night out drinking Bulmers whilst singing along to a man on the guitar playing absolute classics (he sang Wonderwall and all). It was lovely meeting new people and seeing how passionate they all were about the play and I wish them all the best of luck for the future. Tomorrow I shall be posting my reflections of my time at the fringe, and tell you my top 5 shows of this year. You can have a look at my other blogs if you want to see what could be on that list!

Until tomorrow.

With love,

Carrie Mo

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