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From the Devil They Came
Published on Sunday, 29 May 2011
2

2 stars

Iambic Arts Theatre (venue website)
Comedy
24-27, 30 May, 3:00pm-4:00pm
Reviewed by Richard Stamp

 Suitable for age 15+ only.
 Warning: Contains strong language.
 World Premiere.

Oh, I really wanted to like this.  It’s a young cast, they’re enthusiastic and likeable, the concept’s right for its time and they make a decent fist of some difficult slapstick.  Sad to say, though, it wasn’t artful enough to conquer the inevitable inanity of the schoolboy humour; if I’d had a few drinks inside me I might have had a naughty giggle, but it wasn’t the right tone for 3 o’clock on a weekday afternoon.

Don’t get me wrong.  I enjoy innuendo as much as the next man, and there was plenty to entertain me in the opening minutes.  The physical comedy, too, started out well, with a few arresting motifs brought back time and time again.  But that wasn’t going to hold our attention for very long, and the play’s real big idea – a government minister’s assistant accidentally summoning the devil – didn’t deliver enough novelty to keep the flames alive.

There’s a missed opportunity for some proper political satire here.  I assume the minister’s cohorts are meant to be Tories, but I’m just going by the parody Hooray Henry accents; the script has no nods to coalition, cuts, or even the expenses scandal.  All the same, there’s a genuinely sharp wit around some of the ideas (a zombie army raised from the Countryside Alliance and the residents of Eastbourne) and the arrival of a shadowy “colonel” revives the script and provides some added interest later on.

The colonel, though, also highlights the bizarre gender confusion which recurs throughout the play – in this case, we have a woman playing a character called David who apparently went to a girl’s school.  I’m honestly not sure whether there’s a joke I failed to get, or if they’re simply assigning what actors they have to any old role.  Perhaps the most interesting character is a hard-bitten journalist, who’s played by a woman, but the lack of comment from the misogynistic politicians might suggest that’s coincidence rather than design.

Above all, this production needs a bit more pace – the Day Today news segment, for example, could have been hilarious if it had been punchier and flashier.  Oh well; I’m sorry I can’t be more positive about From The Devil They Came, but I do hope they’ll find something to take from their experience at the Brighton Fringe.

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