Brighton Fringe 2014
Written and devised by Boogaloo Stu, Stu and his co-performer, Avis Cockbill, imhabit a husband and wife duo, reanimating their careers with a new pilot episode of Crimplene Millionaire. We, the audience are the teams for a boardgame gameshow that explores the best and worst of the 1970s.
Meet Derek Daniels and his "lovely wife" as we are taken on an hour and a bit ride through the 1970s, via a pilot TV episode of Crimplene Millionaire, bringing Derek out of the entertainment wilderness and offering us a dark glimpse of the "game" that was a decade that later evolved into Thatcherism. The seeds were already there in the ’70s’ and Derek’s glam front belies the money-grabbing motives of the market seller, the seedy Carry-on eye-groping urges that helped to form the Greed is Good generation to follow. In Crimplene Millionaire, Boogaloo Stu has had a bash at scalping a decade, and the attempt is highly worthwhile, engaging, funny, and often discomfiting.
This production is really a kind of "grotesque", loaded with laughs, shadows, a sense of freedom chained to the cliched forms that became the post-60s packaged world of the gameshow, of lurid fashion, E-numbered hundreds and thousands, and delight that was more Angel Delight than the naturalist (and naturist) zeitgeist of the 60’s hippy-freedom generation.
Boogaloo Stu gives us an attempt at a full-on hour or so that is based on a TV gameshow that some of us will well remember. The entertainer formed from bright lights and colours, music that spanned the pre- and post-war melody with the beginnings of the anti-music of punk. All is often too loud, too strong, too much (and I’m not complaining for a moment), and we, the audience, sit in the semi-round, feet almost touching the impressive board-game set. Yes, we are participants in a real board game and the order of proceedings is determined by the roll of a large, spongy dice. I’ll say no more about what happens because any spoilers at all will destroy the glorious virtues here of unpredictability, dealing with the unplanned, and the cleverness of the format. See it for yourself and savour the surprises.
Boogaloo Stu and Avis Cockbill give it all. We have here caricature, but also space for the pain and effort of attempting to revive earlier glory. The game is, of course, Life. The game of the ’80s became ideology that would shape and shape the world. The seeds were there in the ’70s with not only glam rock but also the miners’ strike and the birth of punk. Operation Yewtree gets a mention and the "innocent" innuendo and wink-wink of the ’70s becomes the seed bed of what emerged more recently in the form of predtatory sexual pushing.
The show stumbled a bit as it overflows with variety and change and the need for the characters to tread a fine line between the call to improvise in the unplanned emerging moment, but also to deliver a technical show is a huge challenge, especially early in the run. There were some terrific one liners that arose from interplay with the audience and the things which didn’t quite go to plan
The fourth wall is down and up almost every few seconds, the gameshow format works, the moments of discomfort evoke Alan Partridge without leaning to heavily on naturalism. What I personally love about the show is that discomfort is created by making showmanship seem both infectious as well as grotesque. There’s satire here, but also something more reflective about how a decade can positively and negatively shape what follows. Our characters refelct what we remember, what we value in our formative years, but also our darker side, our unnamed fears and regrets.
There are shocking, coarse moments, alongside more tender elements. We are presented with vulnerable, near-broken characters who hold themselves together in order to "stay in the game". The game – are you in are you out? The roll of the dice. This is theatre through a distorted mirror, made intense by making it immersive; the distortion becomes enjoyable, sometimes light, sometimes profoundly revealing, and sometimes a reflection back on ourselves, and how the fruits of today were partly planted as seeds many years back.
Staging makes full use of the space, the set is striking and really a character in itself. Both performers are big talents and the music, dance, physical and verbal interplay all light up the stage and energise it and we, the audience. in the process. Clunky in places, there’s a bit too much repetition within the format and a need to bed it in a bit better technically. There were moments where we were all a bit lost and where the flow stumbled.
As usual, Boogaloo Stu has shone a garish light from the past onto the present. This is theatre that is different, theatre that is appropriately immersive, and performances that are full-on, loaded with gags, set pieces and also symbols and cutting observation. Recommended.