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Thom Tuck Goes Straight-to-DVD
Published on Monday, 16 May 2011

4.5 stars

Upstairs at Three and Ten (venue website)
27 May, 5:00pm-6:00pm; 13 May, 7:00pm-8:00pm
Reviewed by Mathilda Gregory

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

"What was the first ever Disney straight-to-DVD sequel?" the effervescent Tuck shouts from the stage, and from the back of the room – amazingly – the right answer sails back. It's a great moment in this friendly, funny show that, at times, feels more like a comic seminar than a straightforward comic lecture. Everyone knows Disney, so even if you haven't seen (say) Bambi 2, the familiarity of the first part of that movie's title makes this show warmly accessible. It's a neat skill, to make a room feel like we're all in this together, and this show brings that quality right from the off.

Laid back, stage-confident Tuck is one of the Penny Dreadfuls, best known for Victorian-themed sketch show Aeneas Faversham – and this show is a similar example of a very good idea, very well executed. It's thoroughly enjoyable. Tuck peels back the corporate gloss of Disney's A-list releases to reveal the surreal, slapdash, weird world of the sequel. Made for much less money, they often display a strange penchant for pulling the rug away from their cinematic siblings’ happily-ever-after: Cinderella's switch from bagging Prince Charming to a career in admin is a wonderful case in point.

Tuck meshes these tales with personal stories of heartbreak. It seems quite a trend now for comic-lecture-style shows to weave in a personal story. More often than not it's misguided, feels self indulgent or clashes with the main topic; but here it works very well. Tuck's device of taking the mood down as far as he can go with a super-sad story before announcing mournfully, "So, whose seen Lilo and Stitch 2, colon, Stich has a Glitch?" actually gets funnier on each repetition. He never tries to draw overt parallels between the two strands of his show, and the whole thing is all the better for it.

The show has a sweetly uplifting, if simultaneously downbeat conclusion, which I found genuinely touching. And the song that follows it is a perfect choice for an audience by now well-steeped in the melancholic, yearning strand that runs through Disney movies. A sweet, smart show; if anything, smarter than it needs to be.  And smarter than it thinks it is, which is a thoroughly refreshing change.

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