|Ginger and Black: The Extraordinary Life and Times of Harold|
|Published on Friday, 23 October 2009|
Ginger and Black’s deadpan Extraordinary Life and Times of Harold fell flat this evening. Rescued only by a handful of well-developed characters and some great one-liners, this primary-school presentation for grown-ups was far less cohesive than I’d hoped. The show follows the story of ten-year-old Harold through the blitz - with a narrative strung together by intermittent songs, kitsch animations, and an inventive use of props, seeking to create a nostalgic presentation from the duo.
That sense of nostalgia is evoked nicely with all the tropes of great-British spirit and humour, and at times through the all-too authentic awkwardness of the narrators. But after a slow start, the sketches documenting Harold’s eccentric family and friends lacked the momentum needed to draw us in - despite a couple of wonderfully jaded characters and scenes that could have been hysterical, given more time to develop.
With a clear love of British miscellany and a wickedly misanthropic sense of humour, "Hawkman", the children’s entertainer arrested mid-show for indecent conduct, was one of the most fully-realised and witty characters. Calling to mind Kes while juxtaposing adult drama with the innocence of youth, the audience became visibly more engaged in the drama at these points in the show; putting a dark twist on scenes of childhood, an ice cream truck tinkles through the rubble of a bombed street, and a circus becomes an armoury. But with a threadbare audience, the pressure was on the storytellers to engage us; and sadly, they didn’t quite meet the demand. Nuances were contrived, and the frequent silences between scenes served not to direct the narrative but to fragment it.
Still, the show had moments of brilliance, and some of the songs toward the end felt more original. Keeping the same classroom delivery but augmented to suit Ginger and Black’s taste for the macabre, "Hopes, Dreams, Aspirations" - and the tale of sex and family life colliding as S&M gets a little too personal - were highlights of the evening.
Unfortunately too, I failed to catch any sense of comedic chemistry between the two. With sparse eye contact with each other and a tendency toward self-inflated monologues, Ginger and Black seemed like individual actors with a defined sense of their own character - but little feel for the other’s. All in all, The extraordinary Life and Times of Harold is comic curiosity, but neither dramatic, funny or musical enough to satisfy.
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FROM OUR ARCHIVES
These are archived reviews of shows from Brighton 2009. We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.