Camden Fringe 2010
Fringe theatre is a peculiar style to get exactly right: often experimental, frequently rollicking somewhere between amateur and professional… It’s a rare piece that fits so perfectly into the confines of this particular form of theatre, that so embodies the inventive quirkiness that makes fringe theatre so enjoyable, watchable, and such a different evening of entertainment compared to a West End show or something similar. Concrete Boots is such a show: genuinely funny and touching, excellently written, directed and performed, and a credit to StoppedClock: already a name worth looking out for, now only moreso. The ending may have been slightly too maudlin for my taste, but that’s just me: theatrically, there is no way I cannot award this show the highest of accolades.
Concrete Boots seems, at first, to be a Ritchie-esque gangster comedy, and a pretty good one at that: two brothers are discovered, their legs drying in concrete as the tide rolls towards them, and their dialogue unravels at a pace and level of which Tarantino would be proud. However, what could be written off as a pretty typical set-up of this variety then unfolds to be so much more: a heartfelt piece about brotherhood, jumping wonderfully between wry humour and touching family drama. This blend, along with some cracking acting and an excellently witty script make this production a fine evening’s entertainment, and well worth seeing before the run ends!
As said above, the story is a peculiar blend: it’d be perfectly normal, for example, to see the virtues of brotherhood extolled in a gangster comedy, or a crime element to enter a touching family story. However, this is not just a twist in an existing set-up: this is an actual mixture, scenes from a family drama and scenes from a crime comedy knocking shoulders awkwardly, which really shouldn’t work; strangely, it does, and on a grand scale. The moments of comedy are funny and quirky, which counter some of the more overwrought moments of family drama, just as some of the quieter and more poignant lines counter some of the more over-the-top jokes: it’s, somehow, an ideal balance, and this set-up ends up being enjoyable and hugely watchable.
Beyond that, the production also impresses on a number of other levels: the dialogue is witty, funny and touching, and does each as well as the last: a real credit to writer Stuart Price. Price’s direction is also top-notch: the set is simple and effective, the interplay between the actors engaging and believable, and the piece rattles along nicely, with the bounce between comedy and drama measured well; this is definitely someone to keep an eye out for on both writing and directing fronts. The acting is also excellent: Owain Rhys-Davies and David Beck both heartily impress as the often arguing, though always united brothers, again finding the perfect angle between humour and pathos.
In short, I can’t really criticise this show: it did take a little while for me to understand the mix of styles, but when I did I couldn’t get enough of it. Also, as stated above, I personally found the end a little too romanticised and maudlin, although I think that’s more a failing of mine than of the piece, and I have a bone to pick with whoever did the publicity: the poster image has little to nothing to do with the show and made it seem like something it wasn’t, but these are just niggles: in the end, I can’t fault any of the work done here. This is an amazingly powerful show, everything you might want from an evening’s entertainment, and well worth attending… A stellar example of fringe theatre!