Brighton Fringe 2008
The Extraordinary Mugging of Mr. Winterbottom
Venue: Upstairs at the Three and Ten
Festival: Brighton Fringe
The Extraordinary Mugging of Mr. Winterbottom is a short play about violence on the Piccadilly line staged Upstairs at the Three and Ten .
There are two characters, Mr. Winterbottom, a mild mannered ‘sheep’ and charity worker and an affluent mugger with a partiality for sadism. Mr. Winterbottom has been ‘separated from the herd’ and is sitting on the tube listening to music on his mobile. He is preoccupied, unaware of the impending danger and is picked off by the predacious mugger. The herd/audience grazes on, callously oblivious to poor Winterbottom’s desperate pleas for charity and assistance as he is subjected to torture, humiliation, and robbery, then threatened with murder.
However the lights go out and in the dark the Mugger is accosted and subdued by a mysterious vigilante, who, it is made very plain is not Mr. Winterbottom. The mugger is handcuffed to his seat and Winterbottom turns his persecutor’s jeering argument against him before stabbing him.
This is the tightest and by far the most effective part of the performance with some punchy philosophy amidst the fun. There was some excellent dialogue on the nature of violence and modern urban society. It was funny and entertaining, with a bit of the cerebrals thrown in for good measure. Unfortunately it couldn’t keep up the pace and exhilaration.
Mr. Winterbottom entered the second phase as a Jekell and Hyde schizophrenic bumbling about the stage with a walking stick, beating people at random, whilst uttering Fascist and homophobic clichés. The actor who played the mugger returns as a gay, Brummy ticket inspector, but the scenario was too close to the original vignette to be very interesting.
As the writing lost momentum the dialogue descended into remorseless panto. A third actor then bounded on stage from the front row, an anonymous cipher whose task it was to eat KFC, and be beaten, accosted and occasionally murdered by the fascist Winterbottom. This was undoubtedly a good idea. Unfortunately he was clumsily directed and his frequent leapings form stalls to stage and back again for each of his staggered interludes became increasingly annoying. The whole thing ended when the Brummy Inspector stabs Winterbottom to death after enduring a barrage of homophobia
There was a lot to like about this play, but it needs taking in hand for some major redrafting. The ‘voices off’ depressive train driver added some gags and observations of his own through the intercom system, but was somewhat underdeveloped. There is definitely potential §for this show to develop and with careful refinement it could be taken to the next level.