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Fast Film Noir
Published on Thursday, 08 August 2013

5 stars

theSpace @ Venue45 (venue website)
2-3, 5-10 Aug, 8:35pm-9:25pm
Reviewed by Ellen Macpherson

 Family-friendly. Suitable for all ages.

You can thank Baz and Leo for bringing back the 1930s, but you can thank Braindead Theatre for making us realise that film noir... well, doesn't just belong in films. On a gloomy night in Edinburgh, the sky letting down a sprinkle of rain, you couldn't find a better show to match the mood. This classy, slick production provides one of the best nights of entertainment at the Fringe; it's a triple threat, with superb acting, dancing and singing. Dare I say it, Braindead Theatre are a company I can see in national theatres one day.

That’s a bold claim, but I just love what they do. Two years ago in their spectacular re-imagining of the Man of Mode, they managed to pay wonderful homage to an old text without taking themselves too seriously. The same can now be said for Fast Film Noir. It's as captivating and seductive as a Humphrey Bogart film, but manages to parody itself enough to make the experience charming, rather than the piece of pretentious wannabe theatre it could so easily have been. The plot comes from Raymond Chandler's novel The Big Sleep, especially inspired by its 1946 film adaptation starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Becall.

I really do enjoy a good-looking man in a suit (of which this production has plenty). But sorry boys, all the suits in the world couldn't match Skye Hallam-Hankin's smokin' performance as Evelyn Woodrow-Rowley, the Fast Film Noir equivalent to The Big Sleep's Vivian Rutledge. And while Nick Brown's attempt at Humphrey Bogart was slightly less convincing, it was certainly nothing to sneeze at. The whole cast carried the production extraordinarily well and, even though the writing was on point, I doubt the show would have worked nearly as well without such a talented cast of actors. The New Yorker accents were near flawless – no mean feat considering Braindead Theatre hails from England.

The production incorporates not only the writing and personalities of the film noir age, but the technical effects of it too. Expect tongue-in-cheek silhouettes, and strobe lighting effects that capture the flickering camera work of film noir. The actors use every inch of space they're given by the compact venue at The Space UK's Venue 45: there's no direct audience interaction, but with the actors weaving their way in and out of audience space, it gives a feeling of being consumed by the world of the story. And I also have to note the brilliance of the production's choreography – the dance numbers are some of the best I've seen, particularly Sophie Matthew's tap piece to Will.I.Am's Bang Bang.

If you're a fan of film noir, you'll love this homage. If you're dragged along by someone that loves film noir, you'll at least appreciate the mischievousness of it and its ability to poke fun at the genre. As I walked out onto Jeffrey Street, looking up at the threatening sky and North Bridge, I almost expected a vintage car to be rolling by – driven by a man in a hat, accompanied by a red-lipped lady smoking a cigarette. Don't even hesitate before seeing this show, but be quick! It'll be disappearing soon.

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