Edinburgh Fringe 2013
Racing Minds take you on a new adventure daily that is delivered within a set number of scenes that may alter with subject matter but allow enough structure for this to zip along and be truly a delight. This day we headed for the Palace to find out about a stolen bag of sweeties. Along the way Phillip gave us an insight into Royal bath times, Harry was as right on as we presumed and the evil protagonist was beaten at the end; all very British, and all very good.
The show begins before it begins as one of the actors greets you as a butler offering sweeties. We are then randomly asked to give a name, a place and then the title of today’s adventure. People who are successful in being able to give random ideas are given a sweetie. Don’t be fooled it is not as easy as it sounds, some people struggle and one young chap was simply unable to get his head around it and missed out on his sweetie.
What follows is madcap and partly unscripted but the skill of these guys in finding the comedy in each step along the way with the new material from the audience suggests improvisation is far from dead. It zips along and I am sure there must be a plethora of avenues that this group can seamlessly plunder but this morning’s positively zinged with laughter.
All of the cast have clearly been at this for a long time as the whispered conversations and set ups worked as a short hand in direction whilst recurring jokes that are funny to the cast work for their audience – how many times can a man put on his waistcoat back to front and still get a laugh every time… It takes consummate skill to manage that once… he managed it more than once.
The tiny venue helps the intimacy and also the interruptions from outside – like a screaming baby – add to the possibilities as they became part of the theatrical and narrative cocktail. It has the feel of Victorian Britain, when adventure was king. The clutter onstage helps you to believe that there are many guises and possibilities within the narrative.
This is a highly skilled troupe who have worked at this for some time. Their timing can be impeccable and the interplay between them is good. It is even funny when one actor is clearly unhappy with the direction things are going and uses his opportunity to explain to the audience – thus also his colleague – that this is so! That was just as funny as the routines in which it found itself. To be able to be so self reverentially funny is a tremendous skill and shows great confidence.
It was a fantastic hour and one in which I found myself laughing out loud frequently. The quality of the piece was there but the only minor criticism I have is that it suffers from having been done before. I would have loved to have seen something slightly more original. Victorian times were certainly the times we associate with adventure and exploration so capers and schemes seem to timelessly fit that era but for me I was hopeful of something completely different in terms of the formula used. Having said all that it is certainly the best fun you can have in a confined space with over 50 strangers whilst still having your clothes on.