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The Great Exhibitionists

3 starsReviewed by Richard Stamp
Underground Venues
5 Jul 10:30pm to 11:15pm, 6 Jul 8:45pm to 9:30pm, 7-8 Jul 10:30pm to 11:15pm

The year’s 1851 and we’re assembled at the Great Exhibition in London, where a miracle of Victorian engineering waits to be unveiled.  It looks impressive, but what does it do?  Nobody quite knows.  That’s the jumping-off point for Scrap The Script’s semi-improvised show, which invites the audience to insert key plot details into a tale of academic rivalry, familial blood-letting and trans-national love.

For the performance I saw, the machine turned out to convert pomegranates into comedy reviews (guess who they picked on to supply that last bit), with a troupe of sentient guinea-pigs the first act to face its judgement.  Eccentric plots like that are standard improv fare, and Scrap The Script made a pretty good fist of this one – stitching the elements together into a storyline which entertained the crowd, and more-or-less made sense.  The improvised shenanigans, however, are complemented by some scripted material, including a lengthy scene-setting introduction which I’m afraid I found quite painful to sit through.  The harsh truth is that this young crew aren’t (yet) the greatest of actors, and the scripted parts simply didn’t play to their strengths.

In a neat device, the audience is invited to send “urgent telegrams”, delivered to the cast and worked immediately into the plot.  Though the interruptions proved a little distracting, one of the night’s best jokes was cleverly crafted from a telegram, and there were plenty of excellent rejoinders throughout the piece.  The energy could be higher at times, but there’s no denying the laughter which greeted a lot of the lines.

Overall though, I thought there were just too many opportunities missed.  The programme blurb emphasises “Victoriana”, but the costumes were the only real concession to the time period; with such a rich set of imagery to pick from, I think they could have exploited their milieu more.  More than once, a winning idea thrown in by one of the actors wasn’t picked up by the rest of the cast.  And making a recurring joke out of your ridiculously hammy accents simply isn’t a substitute for doing decent accents in the first place.

Scrap The Script deserve considerable credit for their creative concept, and it’s important to say that I did laugh, while a lot of those around me laughed harder still.  But there’s a lot of improv out there at the Fringe – and with regret, I have to say that this show didn’t make quite enough of an exhibition of itself to stand out from the crowd.


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These are archived reviews of shows from Buxton 2013.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.