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Edinburgh Fringe 2010

The Wake

Misshapen Theatre

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Venue: Bedlam


Low Down

Ant Cule directs Jonathan Brittain and Ashley Booth in Misshapen Theatre’s strongly-scripted farce that blends absurdist comedy with knockabout dialogue.


The stage is adorned with a coffin. Sir James Micgael Hilary Duncan bursts out of it. Alec Duncan, an impressionist of real people, crafted into caricatures steps out of caricature and introduces himself. He tells a story aimed at proving his innocence. He plays his father, Terry Thomas-like, his brother, his uncle. We arer at the wake of his father. There’s a hint of Owen Barfield’s The Ever Diverse Pair in this tale, told and performed with energy and versatility by the highly accomplished Jonathan Brittain. The directness of the writing and the performance is refreshing, the style earnest, making the comedy infectious..

But will he ever impersonate his wife? Out of the audience she steps and loudly invades the stage, directing Alec, correcting the story. What really went on ? All the while, a coffin rests on a plinth on the stage. Ashley Booth ismore than a match for Brittain’s feverish, often Cleese-like acting.
What a very good piece if theatre this is, a hidden gem at The Bedlam. Sometimes the manic energy boils over into a little unclarity but the moments are rare.
This is wonderful and cuttingly funny study on the nature of character and the caricatures that arise from the exaggerated images we create if each other. The dialogue works a treat.
This is a play centred on verbal knockabout and sometimes the punches come overwhelmingly  thick and fast. But what marks the show out as so strong are also the moments of silence. The director (Ant Cule), has been courageous enough to recognise the power of the pause in both monologue and dialogue. It is often the moments of anticipation, the waiting for the dramatic touchpaper to light that the fireworks themselves feel so much more impressive The acting is slick, with mostly faultless timing and it’s pitch perfectly paced. The Wake is an impressively choreographed blend of word, silence, movement and use of the theatre space, even some clever gags based around lighting. Oh, and the writing is witty, economic and warmly funny. I was charmed by the piece and felt refreshed by its confidently powered, often, overheating, engine.