Edinburgh Fringe 2014
Two actors doing The Seagull? Cue a lot of silly wigs and props as Liberty Martin and Cheryl Mayer combine with writer Lauren Stapleton to offer an hour of delightfully daft comedy.
Theatre, especially anything in a Fringe, isn’t all about big shows in big venues. Much fun can be had delivering quality writing in tight venues with a very small cast. And this is clearly something at which Cheryl Mayer and Liberty Martin excel, whilst appearing to have a lot of fun in the process.
15% of The Seagull focuses on the desires of a pretentious, am-dram producer (Martin) and her attempt to introduce the masses to classics. The only problem is she can’t find a cast to put this Chekhov piece. We watch as the excuses roll in from those selected to play roles – not a big enough part for one, payback time from another for an earlier snub, the “got a better offer” line from a third, and so on. Until only two are left, the producer and the willing and eager Cheryl (Mayer), whose idea of an audition piece for Chekhov is a duologue from Eastenders.
Cue a lot of silly wigs and weird props as Martin and Mayer act out the various excuse scenes from those unwilling to take part (I loved the Yummy Mummy and daughter sketchette, so Ab Fab and Sloane Ranger) and then embark on the mammoth task of reducing The Seagull to something that two actors can stage.
It’s pretention versus prosaic throughout, with a touch of pathos at the end when it becomes apparent just where the acting skills in this unlikely partnership lay. Fun is had at the antics of am-dram companies, but it’s never demeaning. And Cheryl’s mixture of innocence, incompetence and an eye for the easy way out is cleverly juxtaposed against the neurosis and complexity of Liberty. There’s a lot of intelligent humour and a clear, if subtly expressed, message that putting on plays in small theatres to small audiences means that pragmatism rules.
Perhaps a bit more humour could have been wrung from the am-dram setting and the video finale where the “characters” explained what happened in the final show lacked the punch required to end matters with a bang, but overall, this is a piece to seek out.
Some excellent acting from both Martin and Mayer (both in terms of the caricatures created and some quietly poignant moments) is matched with some weird and wonderful costumes and props (watch out for that amazing seagull) resulting in an hour of very silly and enjoyable comedy.
This show has now finished its Fringe run in Edinburgh but, given it arrived here via Brighton and Camden, I am sure its popularity will see it staged in a small theatre near you at some point. If so, it’s well worth a look.