Theatre in Wales

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The Flop Flipped to Make a Hit

Wales at Edinburgh Fringe

Hijinx in association with Spymonkey- The Flop , Roundabout @ Summerhall, Edinburgh , August-14-18
Wales at Edinburgh Fringe by Hijinx in association with Spymonkey- The Flop “You put a certain amount of pressure on yourself if you title your production “The Flop.” That was director Ben Pettitt-Wade writing for Art Scene in Wales on 31st July, a day or so before he and company hijinxed themselves north to Scotland. His article is explanatory but also exploratory. “Is it OK for a person with learning disability to be a clown? Will people laugh? Will people feel uncomfortable? Are we being true to the story? Is this just a story about another white guy? Where is the female perspective in all of this?”

The director's self-questioning ends with the universal one for all performers. “Will it be a flop?” In mid-month Chapter had already delivered its verdict and a flop “the Flop” was not. So too goes the word in Edinburgh. Whether it was the lure of the title, or the reputations of Hijinx and Spymonkey, every regular reviewer at the Fringe had been to Summerhall's first floor before I was there. They all liked what they saw.

Broadway Baby: “this latest Hijinx/Spymonkey production is a brilliantly entertaining French farce that's well aware of its production shortcomings and exploits them mercilessly for great comedic purpose...the show takes the form of a fourth-wall-breaking pantomime, presented by six gormless players who are forced to work with a minimal number of props and costumes, in front of a wide wooden set which includes numerous doors and windows which, as in any farce, are used with great frequency.

“Almost from the start it's clear that the humour will be broad, unsubtle, and laced with anachronistic references by a sharp, on-the-ball cast and crew, underscoring the whole artificiality of the production, especially when some of the cast attempt to grab their moment in the spotlight.”

The setting is old France so naturally Jonathan Pugh fits in a role as a fully kitted-out flamenco dancer.

Fringe review: “the energy and sheer enjoyment the cast get out of delivering an hour of mad-cap entertainment. And this sense of fun is infectious in what turns out to be a glorious romp in tights and wigs from start to finish. Absurd, farcical, surreal, anarchic and sometimes all four at the same time, it played to the actors’ obvious talent for high camp, commedia dell’arte and comic timing.”

Three weeks: “the cheerful destruction of the fourth wall is so tongue-in-cheek it’s a wonder they can get their lines out! Riotously funny, endlessly endearing and delightfully shambolic.”

Edinburgh Guide gives the longest review: “Hijinx is back at the Fringe and entirely living up to their name..This is a time when impotency is illegal. A suitably stupid Iain Gibbons plays the foppish Marquis De Longey. He and his bride Marie Saint-Simon, played with nothing short of spectacularly saucy comic acting by Jess Mabel Jones, are happy to spoon (with a catalogue of other innocent shenanigans that involve verbal gymnastics if not sexual ones) in bed instead of enjoying ‘rumpity pumpity’.

“After 4 years, when no baby arrives, Marie’s Aunt, played by a brilliantly funny Hannah McPake, starts to investigate...the regency style panels transform to puppet theatres for these real actors where they can further stretch the bounds of belief in this corny but captivating piece of naughty fun. Costume makers Rebecca Jane, Jessica Hardy and Amy Barrett have created not only rather gorgeous but very clever costumes that accommodate the band’s uniform, yet easily become the bewigged aristos’ attire.”

“...The Flop is a superb example of quality inclusive theatre from the wonderfully cheeky Hijinx. A flop by name but a Fringe success by nature.”

The List alone had a reservation: “meta-theatrical techniques, inevitably connected to the hilarity of one actor playing multiple parts, are predictable, the touches of pantomime solid, yet the comedy is pleasant rather than uproarious. The central marriage is depicted as tender, naive yet sincere.”

The last comment is right with Jess Mabel Jones playing her 13-year old character with a mix of sweetness and enthusiasm. Hannah McPake is the reliably authoritative Judge with a lop-sided moustache that looks set to drop off at any moment. As indicator of the spirit of the piece a legal document that requires signing lacks a pen. A banana is substituted instead.

The performance space is a large one by Fringe standards with raked tiers of seats. When the action overflows into the audience Iain Gibbons' Marquis de Longey shouts at a company member who is far up the rows. He gets a shout back, “You can't see me. I'm behind the fourth wall!” The satins and the buckled shoes are gorgeous. Ted Lishman plays a double role as grandfather and midwife. “The Flop” wraps itself up with Adam C Webb appearing as a giant hedgehog.

My favourite moment: a marital bed is created by husband and wife (along with retainer David!) holding a duvet to neck-height. The three actors are standing. It is a public event with other characters in attendance. “If we are lying in bed”, muses Ian Gibbons' none-too-sharp Marquis. “why is it you are all lying on the floor?” The incongruity is instantly rectified by the observers falling flat on the stage.

The audience for this performance, August 10th, demonstrably adored “the Flop.”All reviews can be read at https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/flop

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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