Edinburgh Fringe 2019
“Amy loves it. Natalie hates it. Who’s right? Amy thinks the 2003 film Love Actually represents everything good about the human experience of love. Natalie thinks it’s unrealistic and manipulative crap. Part double-act, part film lecture, part game show, this two-woman comedy showdown asks whether Love Actually is the ultimate romcom… or ultimately terrible. What will you decide?”
I’ve thought long and hard about how to review this show at the Edinburgh Fringe. If you are interested, a fan, and knowledgeable to some extent about the movie Love Actually, a Christmas favourite in Australia (where this group hail from), then this show is for you. It may well be the only Love Actually-themed show on the Fringe. If this does not describe you then it can’t be easily recommended, but that is no reflection on the quality of the show as a piece of comedy-parody theatre, delivered by two very talented performers.
I have looked at past video footage and stills of the show back on home ground in Australia and the production values are high. The venue here doesn’t bring out the best in it from a stagecraft and technical point of view. But this is the Fringe, with pop-up venues and it is possible to see past that and value and review the show – a performance that the almost full house on the night I went gave it a rousing ovation and laughed throughout. Yet it is important to adapt to the space as give, especially if you can’t change it.
This is a show that has a simple and effective format – two performers arguing over whether an iconic and romantic Britflik is good or bad. Natalie Bochenski argues for the film being terrible and Amy Currie is a big fan. It’s a neatly conceived and executed polarised debate rooted in plenty of audio-visual evidence, opportunities for comedy banter in a well-penned script laced with improvisation and occasional audience interaction. And the performers more than know what they are doing.
Coming in at just over and hour, I felt the show could be tighter at 50 minutes and the show needs and deserves more defined lighting to underline the for and against style of argument and the opportunity for the audience to decide by vote at the end.
The film is deconstructed with sharpness and well chosen vignettes and set pieces. The two performers form an accomplished, confident and engaging duo. Sometimes the pitch is set to uniformly loud and almost shouting. More modulation of pace, volume and use of pauses and silence will add more texture to the piece – it all feels a bit crammed in on this small stage.
Yet that is also, paradoxically, a virtue of the show – it is full of well observed comedy and satire. the audience got it, loved the familiar moments and the ability of both hosts to point our the good, bad and ugly of a film most of them watch each Christmas. And the space lent an intimacy to the bigger feel of the show.
I am happy to recommend this show to Love Actually fans and afficionados alike. It’s loaded with verbal knockabout, funny and well placed visuals, clownish eye contact and facial reaction, and both a love and a hate of the film that also binds the two performer-friends at a deeper level with a message that the cheesiest things can be valuable for their very cheesiness; that we should love those things we hate for the very reason that our closest friends love them; we are united in our differences. Recommended.