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Brighton Fringe 2014

The Complete History of the BBC (Abridged)

Five Rounds Rapid

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Venue: The Dukebox Theatre


Low Down

BBC enthusiast Terence takes us on a journey through the history of the BBC from the comfort of his shed. While Terence provides an enthusiastic and charming walk down memory lane, his long-suffering wife Ingrid is distracted by the missing Charlie. Somewhat ironically, the show’s camp humour may perhaps have been better suited to the medium of television. 


Terence opens the show by welcoming the audience to his pride and joy – the shed he has converted to a shrine to all things BBC. A few lines into this introductory speech, his wife Ingrid enters and presents the show’s main sub-plot – her worry for the missing Charlie. Given that Ingrid has to walk around, and shout over the top of, the audience, her surprise when Terence reveals that they have visitors is the first of several jokes that don’t work in the constrained environment of the Dukebox. That said, actors Bob Sinfield and Alix Cavanagh did well to keep up the energy, even when some of the more obvious jokes were not well received by the audience.
The show is certainly informative, providing the audience with a range of interesting TV trivia and discussing the effects of the evolution of the BBC on the lives of the British people. The show is well-researched, meaning that Terence’s passion for the BBC is believable, and it does well to provide interesting lesser-known trivia while addressing enough mainstream landmarks to hold the attention of the audience. The show would have benefited from more variation in delivery. Much of the show was delivered while the two actors stood side-by-side, and although the energy remained high, it meant that the audience were focussing on one spot for long periods, and this sometimes became tiresome. The show appeared at times to be calling out for a clip of show, or a recreation of a significant moment by the actors, but neither came. Props were often used in their place, and these provided a nice distraction along with a number of sound clips that added depth to the show.
Sinfield plays a charming and engaging Terence, but the chemistry with Ingrid is lacking, and the result is that many of the jokes appear forced. The humour of the show often verges into pantomime territory, and at times this splits the audience – some laughing out loud and some sighing in exasperation. The climax of the show’s main sub-plot – when Charlie’s identity was revealed – fell flat. This was a shame, given the quality of the build-up.
Overall I felt this show couldn’t quite decide what it wanted to be. It promised at times to be a laugh-a-minute romp through history, and at other times to be a romantic nostalgia trip, without ever accomplishing either.  If this had been a television show with clips shown between each skit, it would have been fun early evening weekend viewing, but as a theatre show I was left wanting more. That said, my partner thought it was fantastic and thoroughly enjoyed the humour.

This show’s strengths lie in its well-researched script, energetic performances and interesting use of sound. The humour may polarise audiences, but the pleasant nature of the show and the engaging performance of Bob Sinfield is enough to provide an enjoyable evening’s entertainment.