Brighton Fringe 2022
So, if you fancy a dark and weird little play about a film censor from the 1980’s then come on down to the Conclave Gallery (right by the clocktower slap bang in the centre of town) and see the show. It’s a bit like the Texas Chainsaw Massacre meets Abigail’s Party.
Stuart Warwick’s one hander play about film censorship in the 1980s is a neat little gothic based in Thatcher’s decade, when seventies men still thought their wives belonged in the kitchen and video nasties were a thing. Walking in to take our seats, the central character (beautifully played by Jack Cooper) is standing staring at the far wall while a film projector whirs and shines brightly in the background. He looks uncomfortably stuffy and male, the cardigan, the tie, the moustache all scream Abigail’s party as per the advert for the play, the loud cries and shouts from the soundtrack of the film he is watching (but we can’t see), well, scream video nasty even if you can’t hear the chainsaws. His facial expressions are great to watch as he winces and grimaces at the off stage scenes before him.
Cooper is immediately recognisable as the character he is about to portray, whoever he is portraying. Being a one hander he takes all the parts himself – the mousy wife, the gossipy co-worker at the censorship office, his laid-back posh boss, his new Continental colleague. He’s always spot on and convincing in his physical characterisation, and funny with it.
The characters are stereotypes however which makes things a little too obvious, for me – there wasn’t much of an arc for any of them. That said the play is lifted up by some sparkling comedic writing and some great interactions between them. It’s a very accomplished production and the audience’s attention is held, with some brilliant comic call backs in the writing. Stuart introduces all sorts of little ticks and identifiers to make his transformation from one character to another believable and hilarious – he’s a very skilled physical actor with great comic timing
The play doesn’t really tackle censorship as a theme – it’s clearly signalled as a conflict between uptight English male views of the world and, in a percipient harking back to an England where going to “the Continent” was a bit sleazy and risky in its own right, a permissive European outlook, and that’s where it ends. No, the play is in the story and the characters, it’s a real romp, and as such the audience enjoys it tremendously.