Friday, 19 October 2018

Fun, frolics and filth at the fringe

The verdict on some of the shows, according to our top reviewers.

TICKET sales for this year’s sixth fringe festival were down on the past two years, but festival founder Jo Southwell said she was still “very happy”.

A total of 4,500 tickets were sold over the six nights of the festival, which closed on Sunday, compared to 5,000 last year. However, many shows were sold out, including stand-up comedian Tom Rosenthal, singers Totie and Naomi Vallance, drama Women At The Edge and sketch show Mixed Doubles.

Ms Southwell said: “Our ticket sales were slightly less than last year but I’m quite happy. It went very well.

“We had different programming this year. We had fewer shows running for longer periods, with only four or five shows that ran for the full six nights. Instead we had quite a lot of shows that ran for only three or four nights.

“I met a lot more people from the audience this year and managed to speak to more people who were running from show to show full of beans. I’m very happy.”

She said the highlight of the week had been the Pink Bus stationed in Market Place from the opening Saturday until Wednesday. The bus, a museum full of showbiz memorabilia, doubled up as a focal point for families to wander round and as a box office.

“Everybody who saw it absolutely loved it,” she said. “For us, being small and a charity, we really need something like that to help the fringe grow.”

She added that the bus would be back next year, alongside more musical events which were very popular, and more outdoor events like the open air Shakespeare at the Eyot Centre, a new venue for this year.

Take Two Every Four Hours

Eyot Centre

Wednesday, July 23

UNMISSABLE! One of the best hours of entertainment to have graced the Henley Fringe in its six-year history, 35mm was the second offering from Greenwich Theatre, this time in association with As Told By — and what a huge treat!

Greenwich Theatre used the Henley Fringe as a preview for Edinburgh — like a great many of the acts — but this was a cut or three above. It took the Off-Broadway work of Ryan Scott-Oliver and produced a powerfully directed and sung show.

What a shame that so few people saw it because the performances were near faultless and the music varied, interesting and engaging. The five actor-singers and two musicians produced a fluid series of tableaux enriched with millimetre-perfect harmonies and solo work.

The piece is a reversal of a snapshot in time. Scott Oliver took snapshots and restored them to real life — except that it was all done through music. Each shot was projected on to a screen as the performers sang around it. Sometimes artefacts were taken from photograph frames on the stage.This could so easily have been contrived and seen as little more than formulaic programme music. But it breathed originality and naturalness with the singers producing emotional and vocal dynamics with powerful, well-trained voices.

Already those who saw it are clamouring for a return to possibly the Kenton Theatre where it should draw a bigger crowd. If they do, go and see it! No excuses! Five Fringe Stars from this reviewer — and that really doesn’t happen very often, about once every two years.


Eyot Centre

Thursday, July 25

Mike Rowbottom

TWO young men on the cusp of adulthood but stuck in a hospital. It should be the most pulsating, exciting time of their life as they explore themselves, women and the world. But they’re both seriously ill: one has heart problems, the other terminal cancer.

Take Two Every Four Hours from Greenwich Theatre has all the ingredients to fail — hardly any movement, serious subject, only two more-or-less stationary actors — but it succeeds, strangely because of those factors.

What makes this profound piece sparkle is its ability to engage the audience from the very start so that we live their experiences and fantasies with them. We don’t mind that they’re tucked up in bed as we join them in their fantasy worlds of pliant women, adventure and testosterone-fuelled competition.

It changes pace regularly as they talk about families, compete over the sexy nurse, join together to rap a song, soar with fun, plummet with despair, come back again and stop. They are young men doing what young men do but from the confines of their hospital cage.

The skilful use of pace and variety keeps us all completely engaged, sometimes laughing, sometimes tearful as we see the inevitability of what must come. At its heart this piece is about the friendship that men — maybe humans as a whole — forge in adversity. One of those lives will be foreshortened drastically but this friendship will have made it worth living.

Mike Rowbottom

AS someone who has always been intrigued by internet dating I thought I was certain to enjoy Mark Restuccia’s show about finding love online.

Instead I was left feeling disappointed — and slightly disgusted — after squirming in my seat for much of the show as we were regaled with tales of his downright filthy exploits, some of which were perhaps better left unshared.

The “some adult content” warning should have been a clue, but I naïvely thought stories about being tied to a bed by a stripper before a man dressed as Batman performs a lewd act in your face would not be aired in the genteel surroundings of the King’s Arms Barn.

Drug-fuelled sex was described in an almost boastful fashion resulting in me quickly losing interest — and respect for our host. And I wasn’t the only one, if the vacant and embarrassed faces of those around me were anything to go by.

It fizzled out with Restuccia admitting he didn’t really have an ending — but would be sure to work on one by the time he reached the Edinburgh fringe. This was hardly satisfactory, considering we’d sat through an hour of meandering narrative, expecting there to be some sort of resolution.

Diary Of A Serial Internet Dater

King’s Arms Barn

Friday, July 26

Janine Rasiah

BULGARIA may seem an unlikely subject on which to base a stand-up show but Tom Rosenthal’s skill as a comedian made me completely forget its randomness.

Based on his experiences of living in the country during the filming of ITV2 sitcom Plebs, his anecdotes about being immersed in another culture had the audience in stitches for much of the hour-long show.

It was refreshing to listen to something a bit different and his intelligent and witty approach to such an unusual subject demonstrated his talent in spotting humour in everyday life.

One of the funniest moments was his description of a stand-off between the crew — which included hardman Danny Dyer — and the Bulgarian police over a restaurant bill. Instead of trying to calm the situation, Rosenthal sneaked back to the restaurant to steal a bottle of wine, while Dyer discussed who he would pick off first if a fight erupted.

Everyone was left hoping that Plebs is recommissioned — if only so that there might be a sequel to this show.

Tom Rosenthal


Saturday, July 27

Janine Rasiah

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