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Published on Sunday, 25 August 2013

3 stars

theSpace on North Bridge (venue website)
12-17, 19-24 Aug, 10:10pm-11:10pm
Reviewed by Liam McKenna

 Recommended for age 16+ only.

Four men in waistcoats grace the stage. With a plain black background and not a single prop in sight, the focus here – for better or worse – is purely on the performances.

It’s hard to know how to describe Abominations. It sounds eerie on the face of it, conjuring images of mad scientists, bubbling laboratories and Frankenstein’s Monster. In reality it’s a light-hearted play, which at times feels like it was written initially as a series of interlinking sketches with recurring characters and ended up as a work of comedy drama.

The play starts off sharply with flashes of dialogue, setting the scene, introducing us to the array of posh-boy accents that accompany the characters. The only ‘common’ voice comes from Tony the security guard – as a result he’s the strongest, most convincing presence.  You soon realise you’re in for a brooding comic tale of scientific ambition and over-indulgence. Is it satire? Is it a joke at the expense of human curiosity? Is it supposed to feel darker? Who’s to say? There is a lot of ambition here, that’s for certain.

It’s your standard plot of scientist-invents-machine-beyond-his-control-and-all-hell- breaks-loose. Some wolves get shot, a robot makes friends with a kitten and there’s a BIG REVELATION about what’s really going on in Switzerland.

The kitchen sink of farce has been thrown into this. It’s good wholesome fun. But Abominations does lack a bit of bite. There are some very potentially strong jokes that falter slightly on delivery (the disco bomb being one that promises to be a big hit but needs tightening.)

In parts the show flows well. The quick changes between scenes keep the story moving and the audience engaged. Weird and wonderful ideas shine through. But other times it does feel a little contrived, a little too obviously acted. With no props for reference, the onus is on the actors to convince the audience they are putting out a fire or deploying a magical whisk. It was simply hard to immerse myself in the plot

But the music is something else. It is a perfect mix of moody and upbeat, setting the tone of each scene, juxtaposing ominous moments of terror with catchy lift music.  And some of the best parts of the show come from the inventive use of limbs and sound effects to create lifts, turnstiles and vaults. Clearly these guys knew they were on to a winner with the lift, because they use it at every given opportunity.

This troupe offers lots of potential; they just need to be clearer about what their aims are. Abominations doesn’t quite reach the expectations of dark sinister comedy that you may have for it. They might be better off exposing that darker side, something along the lines of The League of Gentlemen, rather than the pure farcical play they have instead created.

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