EFR - Reviews of AGM

AGM

Mon 22nd – Sat 27th August 2011

reviews

Lucy Eskell

at 21:33 on 22nd Aug 2011

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I left the theatre, having watched ‘All The Pigs’ first fringe performance of AGM, in a state of total confusion. It was the type of confusion tickled with amusement, but nevertheless I was absolutely baffled. In fact, so baffled was I that I walked the twenty minutes home wearing such a frown that a concerned passer by inquired if I were lost.

However, upon doing some research it seems I have been the perfect audience member. ‘All the pigs’ aim is to make theatre accessible, broadening the range of people who feel they can take something away from live performances. They claim to take the pressure away from having to ‘get’ a play, allowing you to have the experience that only you feel like having. So there it is, baffled is the right reaction.

AGM centres around a young misfit named Alquist, played by Adrian Quinton, who is persuaded to attend a meeting of a comic book club for the sake of a free paper hat. In the ensuing meeting Alquist is subjected to oddities he was never to expect. Extravagant characters who fancied themselves special powers, such as ‘Quick star’, who took a good minute to reach the other side of the stage, enter to turn his world upside down. Alquist looks on confused as he is called upon to predict the future, to interrogate a squirrel held hostage at the front of the stage and is repeatedly commanded to sleep with the sensual ‘Mother Bush.’ An almost touching speech keeps Alquist from storming out as he is described by the well meaning hard man, Dr Iron Rod, as the ‘piece of broccoli standing out from the bag of unwanted frozen vegetables in the back of the freezer,’ gaining an unexpected round of applause from the rest of the cast and a fair few chuckles from the audience. AGM in its own special way becomes a heartfelt journey of acceptance for Alquist, who had passed his days as a loner conversing with animals in the park since the loss of his mother, whilst at the same time being utterly farcical.

This play is certainly not for everybody. It will appeal to those who find humour such as the instruction to ‘look into my hole’ whilst a woman dressed as a tree holds out a hollow log between her legs hilarious and those who would wet their pants watching a slide show of images of squirrels made to look like terrorists. However, as much as I found some of the jokes crude, I cannot deny those 50 minutes were not funny. Well, at the least some of the audience seemed to find it frankly side-splitting.

Great comic acting from the likes of Jude Owusu, who managed to keep a wonderfully puzzled expression as Quick Star throughout, and Daniel Hallissey as Willie Weasel, the obligatory arch villain kept this play professional and from slipping into the danger of exploiting easy laughs.

So I would say, watch this play, but be pre-warned, it is very strange. Also, a pernickety comment from one who is easily bribed by enticing flyers, the promised provision of nibbles are soon offered away as a bribe to an accused squirrel. So maybe take a snack.

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Annabel James

at 09:40 on 23rd Aug 2011

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I’m really not sure what to make of AGM. In any other context an adventure story involving deluded comic book fans, megalomaniac rodents and disproportionately revered vegetables would be about as entertaining as a post-apocalyptic episode of Gardener’s Question Time. Somehow, Allthepigs (yes, pigs) Theatre Company’s production turns these elements into a bafflingly funny hour of surreal family drama meets superhero fantasy.

That said, some of today’s audience seemed pretty familiar with the script. There really isn’t anything THAT funny about a be-cardiganed pensioner asking his grandson what time the next bus is, but the guffaws erupted all around me barely after the line had been said. As we followed the sweet but socially awkward teenager Alquist (played by Adrian Quinton) in his search to find a birthday present for his grandpa, the laughs got louder and the plot more and more bizarre. Alquist stumbles unwittingly into the machinations of a comic book fan club whose members are convinced he has the powers of The Chosen One. Dr Ironrod’s attempt to seduce Alquist into joining them involved the strangest extended metaphor I have ever heard: something about humanity being foodstuffs in the freezer or bin. ‘On our own we are just dirty doner kebabs’; ‘Now I can’t make everyone eat vegetables. I can’t! But you, Alquist, you’re our broccoli.’ In the meantime, the leafily clad Mother Bush asks Alquist repeatedly to ‘look into my hole’(of her tree trunk, that is) and ringleader Mr. Zero explains the extent to which the squirrels are taking over the world using a Powerpoint demonstration (‘Look at this. Sick. Fuck.’)

What?

This production is all the more perplexing because the level of skill in its cast is so great. You couldn’t fault the delivery of any of the actors, and they really brought out the comic potential of the script – but what a script! I’ve never seen anything like AGM and I would’ve spent the performance entirely confused about whether it was meant to be funny, had it not been for the extremely receptive audience whose laughter buoyed up the actors and made the whole show really – strangely - fun.

Go and see AGM for a pleasantly geeky jaunt into the weirder avenues of Fringe theatre; just prepare to have your sense of humour altered beyond all recognition.

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