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Home arrow Archive: Earlier Fringes arrow Archive: Brighton '09 arrow Postcard from Brighton: May 6
Postcard from Brighton: May 6

In today's Postcard, Richard's cast out of his home, goes back to school for Oedipus, and finds a channel-hopping sketch show doesn't quite switch him on.

So the one thing you don't want, at the end of an over-long day, is for your hotel to catch fire.  It's surprising how helpless you feel when you're cast out onto the street in your shirtsleeves - but the smoke billowing from a window banished any traces of annoyance, and the local paper's write-up puts the inconvenience in perspective too.

All in all though, it was a reassuring experience: the Premier Inn were prepared for the calamity and handled it brilliantly, and it's astounding how quickly five dirty great fire engines can arrive.  Oh, and a big thank-you to Browns of Duke Street, who fed me on the never-never until I could rescue my stranded wallet.

4 starsOedipus

May 7, 8; 7:30pm (1 hr); Jubilee Square

We didn't do the Classics when I was at school, so here's the shocking truth: I didn't know the story of Oedipus.  I could have Wikipedia'd it of course, and written a clever review full of classical allusion, but I think that would have missed the point of this play.  For by bringing an updated Oedipus to the open-air setting of Jubilee Square, writer-director Chris Hislop has democratized the myth - making it accessible to all, and comprehensible to anyone who cares to come.

This is a stripped-down production, modern in style though classical in setting, played virtually without props on a near-empty stage.  The bare-bones presentation throws the focus on the dialogue, cleverly guiding us through the back-story as we tease out the dreadful secret of Oedipus' past.  Presented as a riddle or, perhaps, a murder mystery, it's an intriguing plot - albeit one where, as the Chorus observes, "you know what's coming" from the start.

Indeed, Miranda Morris's wild-eyed Chorus (or narrator) is never far away, always ready to hold up a mirror to our own dark desires.  When she promises blood, I confess I looked forward to seeing it spilled.  And as her thirst turns to remorse and she fruitlessly begs the god Dionysus to set Oedipus free, so I too felt a tinge of shame.

The seven-member cast coped well with the rigours of the outdoor venue, though the range of their performance was noticeably constrained by the need to deliver all their lines at full volume.  A few of the scenes were weirdly underplayed - surely Jocasta would react a bit more strongly to the suggestion she'd married her own husband's murderer? - but on the whole, the unfolding horror was well-paced and well-portrayed.  As the final piece of the puzzle dropped into place and the reality of Oedipus' curse was revealed, a genuine shudder passed through my body... and it wasn't just the cold of the evening air.

Staging this production outdoors was an audacious gamble, and - to be honest - it might have been stronger in a theatre.  But would I have come to a theatre?  Probably not.  The open air opened my mind; and the play touched a part of me that my classics-free education never reached.  I feel the better for it.

3 starsMax and Ivan: Televisionaries

May 11-13, 18-20; 6pm (1 hr); Marlborough Little Theatre

Not long into Max and Ivan: Televisionaries, I realised I was on my own.  Those around me were laughing so hard that I feared for their health, yet I found myself - well, mildly amused.  So what should I do in this review: trust my own instincts, or yield to the crowd?  To be honest, I'm just not sure.

For there was a lot to like about Max and Ivan.  They're personable, engaging performers; their show's genre - multi-channel television - is ripe to lampoon; there were neat, deftly-handled, recurring themes.  There was enthusiastic over-acting, hilariously inappropriate lewdity and some comically dreadful singing.  In short, they have all the ingredients of a fine sketch show.

And at times, they had the recipe too.  Their "Credit Crunk" dance packed a lot of ideas into a joyously daft hip-hop routine, while their re-interpretation of the Mario Brothers as an Al Pacino film is worth at least half a star on its own.  Best of all, I loved the sequence on late-night quiz shows, a simply brilliant parody which at times, seemed all too real.

So why wasn't I in stitches, as so many around me clearly were?  It was all a question of pace.  A sketch show like this needs to be fast-moving, jumping from one topic to the next - pressing on quickly enough that a weak joke is instantly supported by a stronger one.  Televisionaries never quite had that energy; every time I felt myself warming up, a laboured sketch or slow costume change brought me crashing down.

Towards the end I was coming on board - but by then, I'm afraid, I'd already reached for the remote control.  There's the makings of a fine show here, but they need to adjust the tuning.

And that's the end of another eventful day.  Tomorrow, I'm hunting visual art - and if the weather holds, answering the siren call of the pier.  See you then!

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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.

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