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Brighton Fringe 2012

Ragnarok: The Weird of the Gods

Theatre of the Preposterous

Genre: Musical Theatre


 Upstairs at Three and Ten


Low Down

The end of the world is coming and Norse-myth raconteur John Hinton is there to guide us there.


Performer John Hinton lays out the end of the world in a journey of music and words that takes in a range of performance styles, drawing on Norse Myth and a lot of witty songs and verbal comedy.
John Hinton is a full-on presenter. His entrance certainly gains the attention of the audience, more of a Viking invasion really. Loki has escaped; Ragnarok is coming ! And, by the way, the world is a tree. What’s so preposterous about that? Hinton talks to us directly throughout, picking out audience members and finally getting us all involved in the proceedings. The education walks happily a few steps behind the comedy, and the comedy is pleasingly funny throughout.
This is a show with hats. It’s also a piece of loose comedy edutainment. Hinton’s skill lies in his combination of informal chatty comedy with a pretty tightly defined show – animated visuals, songs, monologue and a bit of audience participation.
Something tells me that, with Hinton’s protean skills, the projected visuals aren’t really necessary. The quirk here is that Hinton delivers a comedy sermon of some skill and much variety about a topic one might normally associate with history and mythology books. He opens the comedy and theatrical doors to Valhalla and we feel welcomed as an audience.
There’s a madcap playfulness reminiscent of Kenny Everett. It sometimes spills over the material and the performance would benefit from a tad less manic shoutiness in places. Why? Because it overshadows the content. And every bit of this content is worth taking in. This is where a director would skilfully reign the performer in and find a better balance.
Hinton lights up the venue with a combination of intriguing material, stage presence and a range of musical styles, including rap. The audience warmed to him and his material. Some of the content is delivered at such a breakneck pace that it’s hard to take it all in, which is a shame as the content is intelligent and well put together. Hinton is a top drawer storyteller and can even do a bit of mine. It’s the shameless variety and ability to seamlessly and effortlessly transition from one set piece to the next, that makes this such a satisfyingly rich comedy and theatre experience.
At various times I felt I was floating in a kind of comedy twilight zone, not really following any narrative thread that might be lurking, but still smiling, sniggering, joining in when prodded. Bathos is employed freely and widely. Our Norse gods are people we chat to, base-ball hatted.
Hinton’s storytelling skills really come alive in the last fifteen minutes or so. He uses music sampling throughout the show but near the end it really shows its mettle as an atmosphere creation tool.
I want Hinton to draw his audience even further into this material – the stories, the characters, the mood and the milieu. We still stand on the edges of this rich lake of comedy edutainment. Hinton is in full fettle and we do get to dive in at the end in full battle. But for most of the time it’s still too much of an audience paddle. Yet it is all lifted to the heights by the man’s sheer skill as a performer.
Hinton believes in love in the here and now and reveals at the end his god-free take on the world. It’s the only time we get preached at and it doesn’t sit well with the rest of the show.
That said, I strongly recommend you see this man in action, as he juggled with gods, punchlines, and some infectious songs.