Five Go Off On One!

Tue 16th – Sat 20th February 2016

reviews

Clare Cavenagh

at 23:23 on 16th Feb 2016

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Nostalgia was rampant among the audience as they impatiently waited for Five Go Off On One! to begin. With the stage set up for an adventure, and a Famous Five audiobook playing to get us in the mood, many people were quietly sharing their memories of the series, heart-warming beacons of childhood. Which were immediately ever so slightly defiled by this delightfully offbeat and weird send up. In spite of a slight tendency to ramble, and the odd character-lapse, a splendid time was had by all.

The rambling nature of this production was both its greatest charm, and the source of some of its weaker moments. The plot and cast of characters was forever changing direction, entirely at the mercy of writer and director Robert Eyers' mischievous and delightful whims, refusing to commit to any kind of sensible order or coherent form. This was not in any sense a drawback: the constant and unexpected twists and turns, as well as the often hilarious asides and non sequiturs were in many senses the main draw. The semi-improvised dialogue between characters within the haphazard framework was however sometimes a little more dragging, and occasionally, it felt as though an exchange had gone on a little longer than the actors could really sustain it.

If you're really evangelically attached to the Famous Five books, then be warned that this production kind of felt like what would happen if you got drunk with your friend who makes bad puns, and your friend who tells dirty jokes, and then rewrote the whole series. Two particularly memorable examples of this were Julian (Will Dalrymple) and Dick's (Alex Harris) telescope I mean penis I mean telescope comparisons (with Lauren Brown as Anne listening through the door), and an astonishingly imaginative and graphic sound-only sex scene between Uncle Quentin (Miles Stopher) and Shop Lady (Tim Vaughan). Miles Stopher also deserves an honourable mention for his corduroy and tweed striptease, a wonder not to be missed. This slightly transgressive feeling, like hearing your grandmother swear, was a delight.

Staging too was very clever, and some of the lighting effects in particular were fantastic. Tim Vaughan and Rhiannon Shaw frequently threatened to steal the show as, amongst innumerable other roles, surprisingly harried and nervous-looking parts of the set. The farcical final chase scene was staged entirely under flickering strobe lighting, making the actors movements appear overlarge and strange, like watching a film on an old projector. The revelatory appearance of the villain was also fantastically lit in dramatic red.

Five Go Off On One! was an evening full of stunned, shocked, delighted and groaney laughter, and in spite of its occasional lags and momentary lapses in character, had the audience swept up into its rollicking adventure from beginning to end. There have been suggestions of a sequel, and I for one would not hesitate to grab a ticket for Five Go Off On One Two! Now, if I could just find where I've left the ginger beer...

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