Brighton Fringe 2022
Zoe A Padley’s The Wrong Planet spells a climax to this wackily gifted auteur’s 2022 Fringe work, with a seven-strong cast including herself. A one-off, it’s to be uploaded for viewing.
Animation’s by Mark Aspin aka DIVEO Animation, in writer/director collaboration with Padley. Bosco Tech assistance by Daria, including the filming.
Zoë Padley – The Wrong Numba
Poppy Kay – Lady of Manar
Sara Segovia – Sara the Alien
Lachlan Werner – Lachy & Brew the Witch
Ebony Rose Dark – Shapeshifting Dancing Star
Apple Tart – Chaplin
Tom Baker – H P Lovebox
Are we on The Wrong Planet? Certainly the Bosco Tent’s housed extraordinary acts, most notable being Daisy Campbell, reprising in 2018 her father Ken Campbell’s spirit with a more tailored, beautifully drawn-down shaggy dog (with hairbrushes, perhaps) to bell out the tent’s scope with his spirit and even more of her own.
Zoë Padley’s the creator of The Wrong Channel? (at The Rose Hill on May 25th), with Data Weather Report on the same night late; she seems auteur of this show too.
This is Absurdist Cabaret and a perfect end to any night. Or imperfect end to a perfect night, which is perhaps how it should be.
Padley’s not the only draw in this seven-strong farcical, winsome, maddeningly shaggy, occasionally stratospheric circus act. Though it pierces stratospheres, some is earthbound, some wondrous and devotion comes dog-like from the audience, who thrill with it every step of its 70 minutes, after a twenty-minute hitch.
There was to be streaming, but that had to be abandoned. Luckily it’s filmed by Daria of the Bosco team, and I hope edited to upload. It’s worth seeing, since this is a one-off, mated with The Wrong Channel?
The scenario’s simple. This planet’s so screwed a couple of bored women in fantastical Haversham garb blasts off. Padley – The Wrong Numba with a red-winking light on her head, and Poppy Kay – Lady of Manar elegantly dispensing ‘yeahs’.
There’s a fine backscreen Animation by Mark Aspin in collaboration with Padley. There’s moving objects like waving spacemen looking oddly familiar, milk-floats over Mars – and touch-down on what looks like a giant fluorescent tennis ball. It’s a neatly constructed video.
Arriving – there’s a plenitude of props, small items of inanimate wackiness – our heroes encounter an inhabitant – Sara Segovia’s Sara the Alien (with her own show Supernueva ending June 4th) garbed in pea-green plastic flapper-hat and dress-stays without dress and bright orange tights. Segovia goes for the audience removing shoes and socks from men with the familiar cry of ‘there’s no escape’ and no-one seems to want to.
The core act’s a puppet witch animated by a white-smocked young man subjected to all sorts of abuse, including homophobic, by his charge. Cue Lachlan Werner as Lachy and Brew the Witch. It’s a masterly apparition, wittily mimed and quite extensive, maybe too much so, but hypnotically good enough for you not to notice.
After, a rapt dance in a peach/apricot body stocking swivels focus as ‘the shape-shifting shape’ gyrates for us. We can’t quite see Ebony Rose Dark as Shapeshifting Dancing Star till the curtain call, but he swirls for several minutes, fascinating with his face edging through the stocking, like a half-realised marble sculpture, or a face from Pompeii.
Then the hypnotically still Chaplin figure Apple Tart emerges from the front bench they’ve been seated on, in Lycra Chaplin garb; dances Chaplinesque like a slow sarabande rather than shimmy, throws this reviewer a plastic orchid and strips to Carole King’s 1971 ‘Natural Woman’.
Later on when our couple return they ask for a sacrifice. One young woman’s willingly plucked and carefully wrapped in silver foil and cellophane and joins in the sacrificial dance. Fright of Spring anyone?
Finally – just as our couple have decided this is even more the wrong planet than the one they’ve left, they’re bid adieu by Tom Baker – H P Lovebox (think Lovecraft, The Call of Cthulu etc) a Dr Who-type octopus-face – you know the breed – who basso-voiced gives us ‘You think you’re special’ as farewell. Another ten years of Tories and more pandemics and we can be harvested. For now, got back home and deliquesce.
The Wrong Planet spells a climax to this wackily gifted auteur’s work. In particular Poppy Kay – accompanying Padley as a double-act – who blasted a tenor sax halfway, has a strong voice and real poise carried in her height. Alongside Padley’s rough-edged but inspired sculpting, and the inimitably cassocked Lachlan Werner, she’s the strongest act, or the actor with time to realise one. Tom Baker’s the voice of the evening.
It’ll be interesting to see more interaction between cast members, as some get less chance to shine. Being a try-out, such collaborations will emerge beyond acts each performs. Clearly too the larger number of actors reflects acts incorporated by Padley, rather than a tighter cast who can multi-role. But there’s more to enjoy too.
The show’s a self-aware mix then of realised and under-realised elements, still developing. The best though are professionally good. The improv will ideally be more cleanly tailored and not bleed into the rambly comedy of the start.
Just to contrast with what Padley’s aspiring to here, there’s an unfair parallel, though with pathos. Horsepower plays with its audience, morphing improv with identity. It’s worth reading the review. Farce needs tightness. Padley’s of course sashaying Improv with narrative and a sequence of acts. Boundaries – even in a one-off – need a bit more shape-shifting. That’s what we’ll look out for when this planet swings into orbit again.
There’s a great act struggling out of this blissfully baggy monster. I’d love to see what Padley and the film-makers do with it.