Tag Archives: Camden Fringe

Zeus on the Loose – 2 Stars

Zeus

Zeus on the Loose

Cockpit Theatre

Reviewed – 23rd August 2018

★★

“a strange brew of classical mythology and sex comedy, although it is often hard to tell what the story is at all”

 

Only by the time I’m on the bus, halfway to the venue, do I notice the proviso: “Not for the faint-hearted”. In all honesty, I had only had a brief glance at the show’s description before setting off, and what I half-expected to be a modern take on Greek comedy is in fact billed as a blend of “musical theatre, circus, and burlesque”. And “not for the faint-hearted”.

The plot line of “Zeus on the Loose” is a strange brew of classical mythology and sex comedy, although it is often hard to tell what the story is at all. It starts with a scheme between Hades and Hera to abduct Aphrodite’s twin and prevent the sisters from overpowering all the gods of Olympus (how or why they would do this is unclear). Concurrently, Hera is having husband issues; the insatiable King of the gods, Zeus, has committed one infidelity too many, convincing Hera to side with Hades (though again, quite why abducting Aphrodite’s sister constitutes betraying Zeus is never made clear). By the end I’ve pretty well lost track of both these plotlines, except that Hera ends up going to hell herself and doesn’t really seem too worried about it.

Randomly placed scenes follow one after the other, often with no discernible linkage. There are occasionally actual gaps in the music and dialogue as if to highlight this fact. Why, halfway through the show, do Zeus and Hera play a game called “Gods & Mortals” in which various characters compete in a choreographed battle? Sure, it’s a good excuse for a dance sequence, but I keep wondering why. The writing plays liberally (that is to say, inaccurately) with Greek mythology, which would be totally fine if only the characters didn’t feel the need to keep making a joke out of it. All the way through, the show makes overly difficult work of a plot that is really just a vehicle for the circus and burlesque.

Perhaps it is unfair to criticise the plot of a show too much when really the main attraction is in the singing, dancing and, yes, stripping. There are some genuinely impressive acrobatics on show including a terrifyingly athletic trapeze act and a woman shooting arrows at a target with her feet. I have to admit that bit gets me to sit up in a way that the burlesque elements really don’t. True, it is quite a spacious theatre and I’m not that close to the action, but for a play that begins with instructions on how to escape if the raunchiness gets too much, it doesn’t hugely shock or excite. The explained-away appearance of Cleopatra (Zeus’s cousin and lover, apparently) gives an excuse for a feathery, pharaonic striptease, but that’s about as saucy as it gets. I can’t help the feeling that both the provisos – and Hades’ constant innuendoes – oversell things slightly. Anyway, there are a couple of children in the front row, so the producers couldn’t have been planning anything too extreme. Good thing the kids aren’t “faint-hearted”.

In general, the performers make a good fist of it. The aforementioned circus acts are genuinely exciting, albeit a bit thin on the ground, and it is quite fun to hear Greek gods singing along to classic rock hits. Hades in particular keeps things running along relatively smoothly, and in his role as charming-but-deadly narrator he keeps the audience well-entertained.

On paper the concept sounds enticing, fusing musical theatre, circus and burlesque, and there is no doubt a version of this show exists in which the fusion comes together. However, on this occasion, the fun is both overstated and underwritten.

 

Reviewed by Harry True

Photography courtesy Pandora’s Door

 

Pigeon

Zeus on the Loose

Cockpit Theatre

as part of The Camden Fringe Festival 2018

 

 

Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com

 

 

George Abbott Changes Your Life – 3.5 Stars

George

George Abbott Changes Your Life

2Northdown

Reviewed – 21st August 2018

★★★½

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

 

Pigeon

George Abbott Changes Your Life

2Northdown

as part of The Camden Fringe Festival 2018

 

 

Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com