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Published on Tuesday, 09 August 2011

4 stars

Gryphon Venues at the Point Hotel (venue website)
8-13 Aug, 3:20pm-4:20pm
Reviewed by Ellen Macpherson

 Recommended for age 14+ only.

There's something infinitely nostalgic about walking into the Gryphon Venues at the Point Hotel. It's reminiscent of a high-school drama set – black drapes, floor seating and a visible sound and light booth. While this might put some theatre-goers off, I've always found the most refreshing and innovative productions live in places like this. And [DEL] is no exception.

I had no expectations about the production at all; reviewing at short notice, I didn't have time to do anything but cock my head in befuddlement at its name and curious synopsis in the Fringe guide. I’ll admit I was dubious, but – much like my high school drama class used to – debutant company Malengin surprised me, with a witty, thought-provoking and somewhat tragic tale of a doomed comedy writer/actor duo.

Mike (the "pigheaded, drunk, egotistical… womanising" actor) and Niall (the writer or, more appropriately, the "pen mental") meet when Mike saves Niall from a suicide attempt in a graveyard. Discovering each other’s respective talents, they form a comedy duo, going on to become one of the most successful comedy producers in British history. But Niall is clearly afraid of the spotlight: he gives all the credit to Mike, not realising that later on, this will prove to be the downfall of their partnership. It's hardly a new storyline, but it's done originally enough to keep you interested and engaged.

The actors do a superb job, especially Peter Easterbrook in his role as Niall. His stuttering awkwardness was extremely believable – so much so that at times, my heart wrenched for him. Johnathan Higgs was also wonderful as Mike, and perhaps what I liked best about the two main leads was the lack of the obvious villain. While Mike is throughly unlikable at times, there are redeeming points to his character that will leave you wondering whether to feel bad for him or not; I'm still in two minds.

That's not to say the production was perfect. At times, I thought it could have flowed better; it often seemed like a collection of too-small scenes attempting to make up a whole person's life. The use of interviews was absolutely inspired, but I felt that just the one interviewer would have done, as opposed to a confusing conglomeration of them. The ending, too, was slightly disappointing, if only because they tried too hard for a twist – when the play as a whole was done originally enough that it didn't really warrant one.

However, if you've got six pounds in your wallet and you fancy a witty and intelligent production, I would recommend [DEL]. Ignore the ambiguous synopsis and just let the play speak for itself, and you'll definitely come away with an appreciation for the humour and acting brilliance of Malengin.

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