Hen & Chickens Theatre
Reviewed – 6th December 2018
“a show with some wittily surreal ideas, but one which requires a good deal of tightening and refining”
‘As If’ – a comic theatre company comprising Exeter Uni alumni – present this Mighty Boosh style narrative sketch show and strong contender for strangest show currently on in London. This is essentially a collection of surreal skits loosely marshalled into a shaggy-dog narrative. The plot (if the term applies) concerns a washed-up, Withnail-esque rock musician called ‘Hawk’ who speaks to his alter-ego via a mirror in his Ukelele. After years of apparent failure, Hawk composes ‘the greatest rock song of all time’ but is devastated when the lone copy of its chord sheet is stolen, sending him on a wild goose chase to uncover the culprit. A german electro diva who invites her boyfriend to chew on her strawberry lace hair and a kitchen sink drama about a family of ants give a taste of the wackiness on offer here.
Shows in this relentlessly zany style can be trying. However, a good deal of smart, pop-music based humour (one twist on an NWA lyric prompted applause) and several inspired characters called things like ‘Barnaby Carnaby’ and ‘Crystal Beth’ balance out the show’s more self-indulgent impulses. There are also some promising visual ideas: a man fitted out with antennae who picks up radio signals and a creatively staged final revelation scene suggest an imaginative directorial hand. Committed performances sustain the energy even when the writing falls apart. Jake Tacchi, as DCI Sting and Anthony, the furious patriarchal ant, was especially funny. The company has commendable philanthropic objectives: they have worked with Good Chance Theatre and a portion of their ticket sales go the charity, War Child.
However, the show perhaps wears its Fielding & Barratt influence a little too far on its sleeve and some riffs run perilously close to direct Boosh rip-offs. It is very baggy, evidently under-rehearsed and the hit/miss ratio tilts towards the latter as the show goes on. A crowded cast (eight actors) results in numerous characters feeling underdeveloped or superfluous.
In all, it’s a show with some wittily surreal ideas, but one which requires a good deal of tightening and refining.
Reviewed by Joe Spence
Photography by Ben Phillip
Hen & Chickens Theatre
Previously reviewed at this venue: