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Squally Showers
Published on Saturday, 17 August 2013

4 stars

Zoo Southside (venue website)
2-3, 5-10, 12-17, 19-24 Aug, 9:00pm-10:30pm
Reviewed by Jane Bristow

 Recommended for age 12+ only.

Squally Showers uses over-the-top dance, hideous mullet wigs and excellent music, to create a camp caricature of the 80s. Set in a television company, it’s partially a satire, and partially a playful tribute to the spirit of the decade. There’s no need to add that this isn’t for the faint-hearted or cynically-minded. This is Fringe regular Little Bulb Theatre back on quirky form.

There’s not much of a plot – or at least, there are so many trippy asides that it becomes a secondary feature.  Instead the focus lies on heavily-stylised characters who work for the TV firm. At the centre is Peggy, the perky weather lady, and Catty her assistant. There’s also Tony (a Ron Burgundy type figure), Brad the jargon-spouting human resources manager, and Margaret the 80s power woman. All is upset when Catty dies, and the play investigates how people get through tough times on a personal level, as well as on a wider scale when there’s a national crisis.

It’s here that the weather theme fits in as a metaphor for the challenges facing the company and the country: can both survive the coming storm? The performance heavily depends on some kitsch choreography, which the actors pull off proficiently but still with a lot of humour. A particularly entertaining scene featured two of the characters power-walking down an imaginary corridor… and yet they only moved about two metres. Like many aspects of the show, the image affectionately poked fun at the self-importance of the 80s.

At times it became positively hallucinatory, and sometimes it was hard to follow the disorientating character switches. Yet, the overall charm of the performance meant that despite a quite deliberate lack of plot, Squally Showers was still engrossing. I did feel though that the political satire could have been developed a bit further, as it was more hinted at than explored; Margaret Thatcher rolling around in money on a map of the UK to an 80’s anthem is clearly entertaining, but more could have been made of it.

Be warned this was some of the most surreal theatre I’ve seen in Edinburgh, and it certainly won’t be to everyone’s taste. It’s ambitious in its aims, but for those who value originality and quirkiness combined with solid professionalism it will provide ample reward.  Hopeful and optimistic in the end, the show left me dazed and slightly confused, but primarily, delighted.

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