Two Super Super Hot Men
Studio – The Vaults
Reviewed – 13th March 2020
“an award-worthy piece that is pointedly political while being warmly hilarious and wonderfully entertaining”
Climate change is one of the burning issues of the moment. Some protest to try to bring about global action while others deny it.
The very daft, but utterly engaging “Two Super Super Hot Men” is a small play asking big questions from the perspective of people who might not ordinarily expect to be concerned by its impact. This is drag king comedy with a conscience.
Saying as much in 50 minutes as David Attenborough has in dozens of TV documentaries over many years Alan and Ron (the clownish alter-egos of performers Rosa Garland and Alice Boyd) give a thought-provoking and extremely funny perspective on global warming, the dangers of being ill-informed (and of blaming everybody else in a crisis), and a plant called Carol.
It is a knowingly ridiculous take on the issue as the two geeky middle-aged foley artists stuck in a small UK studio provide the sound effects for documentaries about climate change and begin to experience the shocking realities of the problem for themselves. Butter becomes sand, milk goes off in a warm fridge, water turns into stones as the pair get involved in increasingly absurd offshoots of the seriously-voiced factual programme.
Ron (Garland) regularly makes good strong Yorkshire tea and removes a collection of gaudy Hawaiian shirts while commenting on how hot it is; Alan (Boyd) has an alarm go off on his watch when it is time to tend beloved plant Carol, with whom he develops an interesting relationship and finds leaves sprouting from parts of his own body.
The two performers (who are also artistic directors and writers of the project) don’t put a foot wrong playing the two well-observed men, sprinkling the show with some terrific examples of mime, clown-like buffoonery and a working relationship that is spot on, particularly in some fast-fire conversation gags.
The humour begins the moment the audience arrives with the pair asking members to give them something that will make an interesting sound, then one does something with the item close to a microphone. So we get jangling keys (“that could be soft rain”), an opening and closing wallet (“sounds like a bat taking wing”) and a crinkly sweet wrapper (“that has to be a small squirrel”). We are cleverly misdirected into the duo’s world where the presence of a universal threat to life can be comfortably ignored.
An oft-repeated mantra is “If I didn’t do it and I didn’t do it then what are we worrying about!” – the cry of thousands who think the environmental crisis is only happening elsewhere in the world or is just a problem to be tackled by the next generation.
This is an award-worthy piece that is pointedly political while being warmly hilarious and wonderfully entertaining. It will be playing at the Brighton Fringe in May but deserves to be seen in theatres big and small, in schools and on street corners.
It’s one of the best examples of how Fringe theatre can tackle a contemporary concern with comedy and devastating directness. Let’s hope Alan and Ron can shine similar light on other significant environmental concerns in the future.
Reviewed by David Guest
Photography by Cam Harle
New Diorama Theatre
Reviewed – 18th October 2019
“very slick with not one word, sound effect or movement out of place”
Imagine you’re trying to steal a painting. How would you manage it? Which picture would you choose? Why are you doing it? Art Heist, the newest play from Poltergeist Theatre and written and directed by Jack Bradfield, has its three protagonists consider these very questions while also exploring notions of value, identity and capitalism.
An experienced art thief looking for one last hit (Serena Yagoub), a lost soul who finds comfort in art (Rosa Garland), and a man obsessed with achieving the notoriety of the great art thieves of the past (Will Spence) all have their eye on one particular painting and will do anything to get their hands on it. From a desk positioned outside the stage space, the quick-witted Alice Boyd narrates and provides sound effects for the trio’s every move. Game or real, it’s not entirely clear, and this is further muddled by Boyd’s appearance on stage as a guard with a penchant for the trumpet.
The performance’s opening scenes are fast-paced and highly amusing as the three thieves and the guard establish their backstories and motivations to steal the painting. Yagoub is particularly strong here and gets huge laughs from the audience for her over the top but character-appropriate delivery. A scene in the museum’s gift shop is also delightfully playful.
The set (Shankho Chaudhuri) is entirely white apart from the occasional prop and the gilded frame of the painting in question on the back wall. Three plinths – amusingly marked Poltergeist I, II and III respectively with museum-style descriptions – and the frame are enough to establish that we are in an art gallery. A white frame sits around the whole stage which the characters either walk over or around which also aids in confusing reality and fiction. The lighting (Lucy Adams) is very well done and a scene in the gallery of sculptures where the stage is plunged into darkness except for Boyd’s flashing torch is masterful.
The use of multimedia is the production’s most impressive feature. After opening gambits, Boyd switches on two screens either side of the stage which are linked to two portable cameras. One camera is initially positioned high-up on the wall like a security camera while the other captures more mundane scenes such as Garland making a sandwich. These cameras eventually move around and are used in various clever ways. Spence sits on the floor, his feet against the stage’s frame and films his feet edging along as if he is walking along a building ledge. Yagoub positions the camera at an angle to make it appear as though by wiggling across the floor on her stomach that she is in fact scaling a building. At one point, an audience member even becomes a camera man!
There is meaningful commentary to be found in Art Heist, but it is not frequent enough to really pack a punch. Spence tells the play’s most interesting anecdote about how it was the theft of the Mona Lisa in 1911 that catapulted this previously relatively unknown portrait into fame. The painting’s gold frame is also used excellently at the performance’s end to drive home ideas about narrative and how much more there is so much more than what we can see. Unfortunately, moments of reflection were often quickly abandoned in favour of jokes or moving the increasingly chaotic plot forward.
Art Heist is very slick with not one word, sound effect or movement out of place. Poltergeist undoubtedly know how to put on a show, but a better balance between the serious and comedy in their newest endeavour would elevate it to a new level.
Reviewed by Flora Doble
Photography by The Other Richard
New Diorama Theatre until 26th October
Last ten shows reviewed at this venue: