Edinburgh Fringe 2015
In a world where four men stand alone against daily tedium, there’s only one chance to relive the adventures of your battered VHS collection. Blam and blast your way to a truly exciting water cooler conversation. (Did people ever really have water cooler conversations?)
Four men just getting through the work day. You’ve probably had a similar shift at the desk, where, just in order to survive the 9-5, you begin to fantasise about shooting the boss, perhaps, or indulging in an office romance. In BLAM!, this Danish group (Neander) return to the Edinburgh Fringe with a frenetic hour plus that starts with finger-guns and throwing paper planes at one another, all the while avoiding the steely glance of their boss, before elevating their boys-with-toys runabouts to all manner of manic stupidity.
In many ways, this would be best described as the ballet version of that episode of Spaced where Simon Pegg and Jessica Hynes mime out all manner of gunfights and grenade explosions with a great deal of cheerfully exaggerated mime, although it’s worth pointing out that are no women in this office, for no immediately apparent narrative reason. It can’t be that the office is a boyz-only space where girls would be above such silliness, as great pains are made to initially obscure some performer’s interest or even basic ability in breathless physical acts (one character wears glasses throughout, even when swinging through the air, looking for all the world like Truman Capote as played by John McClane). It would have been fun to see a gender-mix in the explosions, although it is to be acknowledged that the overarching feel of BLAM! is of a bunch of boys running around a garden pretending that twigs are rifles.
Another visual note in BLAM!’s DNA is the film Playtime, particularly in the early sequences of work avoiders and beady-eyed bosses, which rely a lot more on extended pauses and repeated silent gags. Although BLAM! only occasionally reaches the elegant wit of Playtime, preferring to go for an all-out boys-will-be-boys with toy guns approach – is is still admittedly very funny throughout. While a narrative dénouement perhaps isn’t entirely appropriate for the breathless circus that BLAM! is going for, it would have been nice to see a little more of the real lives that our heroes are running away from.
There are clever jokes involving Goldeneye-style POV computer games, a HB Wolverine, and a poker game with Post-It notes. There are so many cinematic references and in-jokes that it’s at least likely you’ll miss at least half of them, but that hardly matters – the energy and verve from the performers (and, crucially, the technical crew as well as the lighting and sound team) mean that you’ll still be in on the joke while not necessarily entirely understanding the joke, particularly when the gang attempt the task of replicating on stage very cinematic bells and whistles, like overhead dolly shots.
It is all very exhausting – by the end, perhaps too much so, and the show may have benefited from some judicious editing. The show is one hour fifteen rather than the perhaps more expected fringe hour, and it’s possible the show would be even more effective at a lean sixty minute – although the last quarter of an hour is certainly thrilling as the performers manage to open up the stage in all manner of unexpected ways.
This is Jacques Tati playing Call Of Duty, and as such is smart, breathless and unashamedly immature. See it before they punch out.