Edinburgh Fringe 2011
Awkward Cough’s debut at the Fringe sees their peerless example of silent theatre produce gales of laughter as three complete misfits seek to stage a bank heist.
Going off piste at the Fringe (i.e. away from the four major venues) can often turn up complete gems and Criminy, Awkward Cough’s ingenious new silent comedy, is a nugget of pure gold.
As ever, the best ideas are usually the simplest, and so it is here. Three unlikely misfits get together to rob a find a bank, rob it and flee the scene. But just about everything that can go wrong does go wrong, providing the platform for some absolutely sublime slap-stick, pratfalls, mime and pure physical theatre. The “heated” arguments over who is supposed to be doing what, the struggle to break open the bank vault, the turning of the vertical into the horizontal as they make their death defying escape over the rooftops, the car chase and its “horrific” ending all stand out as routines of humour and physical excellence.
And all this is played out to Kevin Macleod’s classic piano accompaniment augmented with modern sound effects that act as story pointers to the audience, often being very witty interjections in their own right. And just in case there was any danger of us getting lost, that old silent movie stand-by, the cue board, was used to amusing effect by the cast as scene followed frenetic scene.
Some forty-five minutes in length, the piece is longer than the those classic silent movies of a century ago but Criminy never drags, never fails to intrigue and produces many hysterical moments of pure comedic genius. The three hard working actors have created clearly defined characters with Ian Farnell loosely attempting to co-ordinate matters aided by the cerebral Thomas Booth both of whom are hindered by the joyously clown-like Samuel Oliver who, wittingly or unwittingly had the demeanour and expressive abilities of the great Stan Laurel. And the physical differences in the three actors in terms of height and weight adds to the hilarity that they are able to generate through movements that are timed to the split second and facial expressions that often convey more meaning than the average page of dialogue.
Superbly brought to life without a word being uttered, Criminy is simply a wonderful and very inventive example of silent theatre. Awkward Cough are all recent graduates of Hull University and have been working together now for four years. Pulled together by the charismatic Beki Harrison, this is their first venture north to the puddle that is the Edinburgh Fringe of 2011. But make no mistake, this is a young group with real talent and theatrical vision and they have conceived and produced a real winner here. Go off piste – Criminy is really worth it. But it closes on 20 August so you’ve not got long.