September 16, 2019

Beyond the Cringe: did Andrew Lloyd Webber write Gatwick Express?

A show that is already being described as ‘taking place’ and ‘in August’

Our coverage of the Camden Fringe continues with theatrical comedy Beyond the Cringe, created and performed by a group called The RADAdians from RADA & BBK’s MA Text and Performance course.

A disclaimer in the programme begins in the usual manner – Any resemblance to real people and events… It ends less familiarly with …was done on purpose. Writers Will Bragason and Catherine Day have joined battle with ten of Britain’s playwrights to create a 5K fun run through British playwriting. They don’t hold their punches when they don’t like a genre, but overall it is a series of spoof works, playing on each writer’s distinctive qualities, whether that be swearing, anger or… long pauses.

Divided into scenes, helpfully introduced so that the audience spot the target, we have short spoofs of works by playwrights such as Noel Coward, Sarah Kane, John Osbourne and Simon Stephens. Of course you could hardly not include Shakespeare in such a production and Alex Baines amusingly plays a foppish director who has spotted the Ophelia is a Swedish spy subtext in Hamlet and is going to present it without a soupçon of pretension.

Before then things kick off with a contemporary twist on Coward’s I went to a marvellous party, delivered with brio by a dressing-gowned Bragason. Beyond the Cringe is an ensemble piece but Bragason takes the biggest part, introducing each scene as a pompous actor with an absurd tale of how he originated the part. Later there’s a couple waiting for Margot, a particularly angry young man and a cast of sinister men who get confused by all the pauses. Some performers are stronger than others but the production is carried with enthusiasm and Jessica Williams delivers a well-pitched Alan Bennett imitation.

The show ends with some rewritten songs from musicals. The lyrics suggest none of the cast are hoping to work on an Andrew Lloyd Webber production any time soon. One song about a paedophile seems out of place, otherwise this is a high speed, good-natured romp through British drama. Throw in a Tortoise Andronicus pun and you should have fun, unless you’re a purist who has to lie down when you hear a misquote from a favourite play. Irreverent stuff and it will be interesting to see what the cast and writers work on in the future. They’ll be hoping not Gatwick Express.

More details and tickets

 

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