Edinburgh Fringe 2015
The Sunset Five is an exemplary piece of devised theatre. Full of wit, charm, faultless performances and lots of laughs, this a play with a big heart.
The Sunset pub is threatened with closure. Mickey, the owner of the local casino, has bought up owner Charley’s debt. He will close the pub in one month if she can’t raise £80,000 to pay off her debts. Out of desperation, the pub’s quiz champions put together a plan to raid Mickey’s casino.
Performed three-sides in the round, The Sunset Five utilised live music, dynamic lighting states and physical theatre to wonderful effect. The story was narrated by Fred (Luke Murphy), an American with a desire to travel and host pub quizzes all around the world. The cast were playing Hound dog by Elvis as we entered, and when the lights went down, the music stopped and Fred introduced the story.
The story centres on a group of misfits that form the pub quiz champions. As well are Charley (Katy Daghorn) there is Hugh (Tom Black), who works for the local newspaper, Neil (Jonathan Charles), a keen amateur sportsman, Alice (Sarah Workman), a computer programmer, and Fork (Edmund Digby-Jones), a local small-time criminal. The roles are superbly cast, and the backstage crew of director George Chilcott, designer Emma Tompkins and lighting designer Celia Dugua deserve equal credit for their contributions to this superb production.
The Sunset Five is an exemplary piece of contemporary devised storytelling, executing every theatrical mechanism to perfection. Cast members sat at the back of the stage when not featured, and from here they used musical instruments and clever microphone techniques to add depth to the story. Simple guitar fills, looping vocals, a drum machine and pitch-perfect harmonies created soundscapes over the action. Wonderfully-executed physical theatre combined with lighting changes created cinematic montages to move the story along. Crucially, each scene served the play. Devised theatre can often be guilty of being self-serving, but there were no signs of ego in the script- just funny, believable characters and an absorbing storyline. The simple format is testament to a director that knows when they have a group of actors this good, any unnecessary bells and whistles would be distracting.
There is a rhythm to the play, and it’s obvious that this cast are well in tune with each other. There is a comfort between the cast members that comes out in their performances, and every single one of them delivers at the top of their game. In addition to their main roles, most of the cast also play supplementary characters for short periods of time. The transition between characters is seamless, and the energy never drops.
One of the big strengths of the Sunset Five is the variety of comedic moments – from old-school British sitcom humour, to Hollywood-style nonsense. The show’s press release says “Think Hot Fuzz meets Ocean’s Eleven”, and while that’s true, the show also had moments that appeared to take influence from the likes of the Vicar of Dibley, Anchorman and Father Ted.
I was gripped for the entire show. When I wasn’t laughing out loud, I was grinning inanely. This is a show with a big heart, and you’d have to be pretty cold-hearted to not enjoy it. The audience were attentive and laughing out loud in all the right places, and as well as the quick-fire comedy, the cast created an urge in the audience to want to know what was going to happen next. A couple of well-placed curveballs took the story in a slightly different direction when things threatened to get predictable.
This play is exactly what Fringe theatre is all about. A young company taking risks to create something that is both contemporary, yet timeless. The Sunset Five has broad appeal, and the cast and crew have to be heavily praised for putting together such a slick production. Every single cast and crew member can be proud of their performance, and I highly recommend taking time out of your Edinburgh schedule to seek out this show.