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Home arrow Archive: Earlier Fringes arrow Archive: Edinburgh 2011 arrow Casual Violence: Choose Death
Casual Violence: Choose Death
Published on Wednesday, 17 August 2011

5 stars

Just the Tonic at The Store (formerly GRV) (venue website)
4-15, 17-22, 24-28 Aug, 10:40pm-11:40pm
Reviewed by Craig Thomson

 Recommended for age 16+ only.

The title of this semi-narrative driven sketch comedy immediately brings to mind a Trainspotting-inspired barrage of in-jokes, but we tapped that well dry in our earlier preview.  Which is a good thing, because Choose Death is more than able to stand on its own merits without that sort of facile comparison.

In following up last year's surprise hit comic drama Dildon't!, Casual Violence have shaken things up a bit.  As well as some cast changes, the format has morphed into something a bit looser, tending towards thematically-linked sketches.  That is to their benefit, and Choose Death is immediately more accessible as a result.

The six main actors of the group (supplemented by on-stage musical accompaniment from Adam Felman) take on an array of roles, as is par for the course – but also star as the lead character in their own plotline, charting the demise of their wretched, benighted creations.  Luke Booys, for instance, who so impressed last year, gives an equally thrilling turn as a double-amputee serial killer with a penchant for abducting grannies.

Yes, it’s that sort of show.  The scenarios range from the ridiculous – the Siamese twin hitmen being a highlight – to the sublime, such as Greg Cranness’ unbearably sad clown routine.  The writing and performances demonstrate a sort of maturity, without losing the connection to the bleak darkness that drives the group.  Where they were perhaps wilfully obscure last time round (the sex toy obsession had a slight distancing effect), Choose Death connects to universal themes, and that development means the audience actively engages with the stories rather than just being blasted with them.

However, I felt the venue did them few favours, with an awkward staging arrangement which led to extended scene changes.  The group manfully worked around the situation, and it gives Felman an opportunity to become the focus of attention at least.

Still unique, Choose Death is a stand-out show from an exciting comedy group.  What gets them that fifth star is the sense that, even amidst all the murder and suicide, there is a fragility and tenderness about the way they each shuffle off this mortal coil that puts character first.  The laughs inevitably follow from there.

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