George Abbott Changes Your Life
Reviewed – 21st August 2018
“George is narcissistic, misogynistic, mean, energetic, manic and completely off his rocker“
George Abbott, failed actor turned self-help guru and descendent of the infamous Abbott family, wants to help you change your life. He decides to do this through the medium of a lecture. Initially he was hoping for the Southbank Centre but instead is stuck with 2Northdown, a small venue near Kings Cross, as part of the Camden Fringe.
The audience is welcomed at the door by two performers dressed all in white who ask, “Do you want to change your life?” Everyone is offered squash and biscuits, and some of us are offered plastic ‘goody’ bags. The space is intimate. Two rows of chairs face a stage covered in a white tarpaulin, with a single microphone, and a projection screen at the back. A technician hangs over the bars of the tech desk on a mezzanine above, watching us and loudly munching crisps. Just by walking into the venue the bizarre tone of evening is immediately set.
The main character is George Abbott (played by the actor of the same name) who begins to take the audience through his 12-step program, which is not at all what you would expect. Abbott seems to believe in breaking people down before building them back up and his program is much darker and more sinister than your average self-help seminar. George is narcissistic, misogynistic, mean, energetic, manic and completely off his rocker. None of what he says makes sense but he delivers it well and it’s good fun to watch him jump around the stage.
While Abbott is the star of this Ionesco-like show there are other characters involved. The two men who meet me at the door (Cullum Ball and William Brown) spend the entire play standing next to the stage assisting Abbott, desperately trying to keep the show on track and getting the audience involved. These two assistants are clearly fed up with George’s antics and the actors play this very well. Their calmer, quieter energy nicely juxtaposes Abbott’s intensity.
The plot of the play is completely bonkers and absurd and also quite meta; you’re never quite sure if you’re watching a play, a lecture, or if the actors have broken character. This keeps the audience on their toes and the energy up. However, the show runs a little too long and after a while the barrage of surprises and slapstick enslaughts becomes a little tiresome.
The projections are simple but this works well with the low-budget, kooky vibe of the show. The technician (Joe Dolan) also gets involved at one point in a totally over-the-top, farcical display of humiliation and is a very good sport about it.
Overall, George Abbott Changes Your Life is a fast-paced, insane roller coaster ride filled with nutty antics and outrageous shenanigans. Nothing makes any sense and though this gets somewhat tedious, the performers seem like they’re having an incredible amount of fun and the audience is willing to come along with them on this crazy journey. The laughs in the crowd are frequent and genuine, even if sometimes they’re a little bit out of nervousness.
Reviewed for thespyinthestalls.com
Photography courtesy Spare the Rod
George Abbott Changes Your Life
as part of The Camden Fringe Festival 2018