Four Woke Baes, written by Jonathan Caren, directed by Teddy Bergman and presented by Hidden People; the show features the true story of four men on a stag party drinking beers and barbecuing out in the woods. Everything changes, however, when an alluring female approaches their campsite.
The show builds in awkward tension and uses the breaking of this tension to create most of its comedic moments. None of the guys are particularly good at holding a conversation with Emma (Lyndsy Fonseca) not just because of her ravishingly “symmetrical features”, but because of her vastly superior intellect and ability to dissect each of the guys’ behaviour. So a large amount of this performance sits you in a pool of awkwardness, begging to be alleviated by someone. Oftentimes, Boardman (Quincy Dunn-Baker) is the person that provides this. Dunn-Baker’s performance has the audience in hysterics as his heavy-handed comments land at almost perfect moments to assuage the tension in the room. However, some of the more pure comedy for comedies sake moments aren’t as sound and serve, in the context of the quality of the performance, to feel slightly cheapening.
Consistent brilliance shines from each of the actors as they work through a well-written story to hook you in. Learning about each of the guys’ lives through Emma’s diagnosing of them helps to build a strong connection to each character. When the show reaches its precipice, a do it or don’t do it moment, you can hear a pin drop… it’s skin-crawlingly tense.
Emma’s soothingly calm yet aggressively inquisitive demeanour often has the guys on the back foot and being very defensive. Though the conversation is not often elevated into any form of argument, you can feel the unwillingness of the four men to allow themselves to be read by, or to learn from, a woman. The piece’s overall tone appears to be one of a feminist nature, and achieving this with a male-dominated cast is incredibly impressive.
Colin Grenfell’s lighting and Jeff Gardener’s sound design are a highlight of the play, being integral in creating a natural feel to the performance. Together, they ease the piece through time and slowly travel from a sunset evening into the dead of night. It is done so carefully and concisely you almost don’t notice it happening, such understated and considered tech is hard to come by.
Four Woke Baes is an exceptionally interesting piece. Knowing that the story is true, you feel as if you’re watching some of the most intimate moments of a person’s life, which is quite a unique feeling. It’s a clever, awkward and incredibly tense comedy but overarchingly is a thought provoking piece of theatre.
Reviewed by Craig Unadkat
Four Woke Baes
Underbelly Cowgate until 25th August as part of Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2019
“it becomes an over the top, pantomime of character traits and gestures”
“How YOU doin’?” Not great! After seeing my favourite 90s American sitcom Friends has been turned into a confusing musical parody.
Friendsical disappointingly misses the mark in many ways. Branding itself as a parody but it is clearly a failed attempt to recreate a condensed version of David Crane and Marta Kauffman’s original hit show with a few beige musical numbers thrown in for good measure. Iconic colourful umbrellas in hand – the cast of Friendsical take to the stage, singing a second rate adaptation of the “I’ll Be There For You” theme song. Although their umbrella-ography by Darren Carnall is slick, and energetic that is about the only thing worth note in this ninety minute “romp”.
The premise for the show as Ross Geller (Jamie Lee Morgan) explains to the audience is that he has decided to make a “musical spectacular” to celebrate their ten years of friendship together but particularly commemorating his relationship with Rachel (Charlotte Elisabeth Yorke) and so he has cast his friends to play themselves and re-enact their own memories through song in this live performance. Get it? No? Me neither.
Miranda Larson’s writing makes excuses from the beginning when Ross explains that the ‘timelines’ might get mixed up but the audience just have to allow it in the name of “theatrical license”. This prerequisite allows Larson to cram the rest of the show with word for word re-creations of moments such as: ugly naked guy, the wedding dress scene, Janice and Chandler’s break up and out of context catchphrases in the hopes that we won’t notice the lack of any real substance.
These are the characters we know and love – as if they are on acid. The actors do a great imitation of each of their parallels with clear in depth research in physicality and voice. In particular, Sarah Goggin’s up-tight, control freak Monica and Thomas Mitchell’s snarky and awkward Chandler couldn’t BE anymore spot on. However, once the novelty of seeing these imitations wears off it becomes an over the top, pantomime of character traits and gestures.
Anthony Lamble’s set design is one of the things this production got right. With the iconic purple door, the huge bay window and the neon Central Perk coffee sign. Lamble has recreated in great detail the famous locations of Manhattan life, generating an overwhelming sense of nostalgia which this show is definitely lacking.
In truth Friendsical doesn’t feel like a lovingly made homage to the sitcom with 236 episodes which we have all rewatched at least ten times. It feels like a ‘play by numbers’ venture, riding off a multi-billion dollar brand to get hyped fans bums on seats. This ambitious remake is a steep price to pay for fans with not much given in return.
Reviewed by Liz Davis
Photography by Dale Wightman
Assembly Rooms – Music Hall until 25th August as part of Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2019