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And The Horse You Rode In On
4.5 stars

Pavilion Theatre
Brighton Festival
Reviewed by Mathilda Gregory

As I walked down the hill to Pavilion Theatre I passed The Mound, a disused car park that had been taken over by squatters and turned into a community garden. Just that day there had been an eviction, and the whole thing destroyed by bulldozers; the lettuces and sunflowers covered in rubble. It was a very sad sight, and put me in the right mind for the show I was about to see.

Told By and Idiot's wildly chaotic sort-of sketch show takes a theme of social disobedience / terrorism / resistance / freedom-fighting… the kind of behaviour that gets called very different names, depending on whether or not you agree with the aims of the people in question. We’re shown anarchists meeting at London Zoo and Protestants in pre-revolutionary France. In Germany, a young student inspired by her tutor contemplates a truly horrifying act, under the banner of Enlightenment by Demonstration. The cultural references tumble thick and fast: The Accidental Death of an Anarchist, Sabotage, Bugs Bunny. And all the plot lines seem to intersect at Grace Brothers Department store.

Despite the grim theme of political violence, it is very funny. Devised pieces can often be self-indulgent or hit-and-miss, but this show rarely delivered a dud, even in pieces where the improvisation games that inspired them seemed clearly evident. The cast of five were all excellent – and much more diverse than the ever-popular 3 or 4 blokes in their mid-twenties comedy sketch show line-up (which often means I am already bored just looking at the show's flyer).

But this is more than a sketch show. The theme comes back time and again, and tragedy starts to make it presence felt more and more deeply as the show goes on. The ending, while still funny, is thoughtful, as the slapstick gives way to real injury – casting new light on the mayhem that has gone before. Like A New World Order, this show reflects this year's festival's theme of human rights and social freedom, and it does it in a wholly inventive, raucously entertaining, truly poignant way.

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