The Awesome Show

Fri 17th – Sat 25th August 2012

reviews

Rivkah Brown

at 00:36 on 22nd Aug 2012

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‘Back to School’ and ‘The Awesome Show’, though both reliant on audience involvement, are worlds apart. Whilst the audience’s participation in ‘Back to School’ feels more like the whip-crack of secondary school discipline, ‘The Awesome Show’ engages with its audience as equals, as normal people rather than sitting ducks. After ‘Back to School’, it felt a bit naughty seeing Will Glenn and Trish Parry out of character, like bumping into your teacher in a bar.

‘What is awesome?’ They express this aim quite openly at the beginning of the show, proceeding to sit down and chat with audience members individually about their definitions of ‘awesomeness’.

The trio (Will and Trish were joined by last-minute stand-in Jamie) maintain this same style of conversational, almost untheatrical theatre throughout. Add a couple of drinking games to get the crowd warmed up (a brilliant idea, and highly effective - why does nobody else do this?), and I truly felt like I was in a friend’s living room, except with more cupcake-hurling and lamé leggings.

Having crowdsourced a few ideas of what awesomeness might be, from food to football to waterfalls, the aim of the game is to pick n’ mix from a selection of sketches written on bunting across the stage in order to create an ‘awesome’ show. And twee as it sounds, they did it. This may be the free vodka talking, but the rag-bag nature of the show works in its favour, providing much-needed moments of light relief (cue cupcakes and leggings), whilst deepening its more earnest moments.

One such moment was ‘Campfire’, a sketch in which the three sit dotted about the room under evocative campfire-esque lighting, courtesy of ‘Visual Scenographer’ Max, and discuss time. Not in any poncy, sophistic way, but in that plainsong that you only get when you are truly awe-inspired, when something is so awesome that words elude your grasp. This was then juxtaposed with ‘Jamie’s Bag’, which does what it says on the tin, cataloguing the contents of Jamie’s handbag. Yet somehow this admixture of banality made the profundity more pressingly so.

Most of the things that audience members suggested at the beginning of the show as ‘awesome’ had been big things: waterfalls, nature, outer space. Yet what dawned on me as the show came to a close, and I found myself singing along to U2’s ‘With or Without You’ in an outstanding feat of audience participation (at least on my part), was that this moment of strange oblivion, of singing in a chorus of strangers in a dark room in the basement of a hotel, was somehow completely awesome.

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Jenni Reid

at 09:04 on 22nd Aug 2012

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It is really very difficult to describe what The Awesome Show is, or convey what makes it so enjoyable. Certainly it won’t be to everyone’s tastes, and the four star rating might be called into question when compared to shows with more content, more plot, or more action. However, despite its lack of formalities, it is truly fantastic at getting you to leave the theatre with a smile on your face and at igniting a discussion about what on earth you just witnessed. And really, what else is the Fringe all about?

Will Glenn and Trish Parry present to us the question, what is awesome? This is a question they have been asking audiences for the past nine months, their answer to which they claim is constantly changing. The show’s three performers then sit amongst us in the audience and begin chatting with us – not in some sort of role but as themselves. “To me, nature is awesome … that feeling you get when you move beyond yourself, are so overwhelmed by the world that you cease to be part of it” Parry claims, quite plainly, to me and the two people next to me. The Awesome Show’s greatest strength is getting the audience to feel a personal connection to the performers themselves, seeing them as real people who just happen to be on a stage.

As Glenn then explains to the audience as a whole, awesome has two meanings. It can mean some that is good, like an awesome concert. But it can also mean something that literally inspires awe, whether good or bad. The cast then allow the audience to select phrases and words from pieces of paper around the room, which they would then ‘do’ for us. These could not quite be called acting, or comedy, or any other description I could think of; so I took to thinking of them as ‘snippets of awesomeness’. These would start off seeming very random, or clichéd, until suddenly you realise that what you’re seeing is maybe not awe inspiring, but just quite cool. My personal favourite was entitled ‘Swan Lake’, which suffice to say ended up with a flock of origami swans floating round in a frying pan filled with vodka to the Swan Lake theme. I am aware that this doesn’t sound cool at all – but somehow, they made it so. ‘Shot Game’ was also an ingenious way to get the audience on-side, which as it says on the tin, involved the audience guessing what action Parry was acting out and being rewarded with a shot. The whole thing is a roller-coaster of emotions – one minute Glenn and Parry are stripping off and getting audience members to launch cupcakes covered in whipped cream at them; the next, they are quietly seated around the stage musing on the vastness of time while campfire sounds softly play in the background. Some parts were as simple as having a performer lay out items from her bag, asking us to close our eyes, and then guessing which one she had removed. I guessed right, and was rewarded with an oatcake. But it was all still awesome.

The show ended in a brilliant finale in which the whole audience joined in with a karaoke rendition of U2’s With or Without You. The Awesome Show may not be hilariously funny or heartbreakingly affecting – really, it is a bit of fun – but it is also extremely original, provocative and heart-warming.

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